ConAgra Foods Inc posted a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday as price increases and cost cuts helped lift earnings in its consumer foods business.

The maker of Healthy Choice frozen meals and Peter Pan peanut butter has sold off other businesses in order to focus on core segments like consumer foods. It has been trying to turn around the consumer segment by overhauling product lines and aiming to price products at points where it can cover commodity cost increases yet still attract consumers.

ConAgra said profit in the consumer segment rose 6 percent in the latest quarter, excluding year-earlier restructuring charges, helped by price increases.

Some analysts had been unsure how well the business, which represents 63 percent of the company's sales, would do. Retailers are aggressively pushing their own brands, and frozen food competitors are spending more to promote their products.

ConAgra said it expects more profit improvement in the consumer segment in the fourth quarter as inflation moderates and new products gain ground.

The company stood by its full-year profit forecast of slightly more than $1.50 a share excluding one-time items.

The company said profit was $193.2 million, or 43 cents a share, in the fiscal third quarter, ended February 22, down from $309.1 million, or 63 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items and discontinued operations, earnings rose to 40 cents a share from 34 cents a year earlier. Analysts on average had forecast 36 cents a share.

Sales rose 6.1 percent to 3.13 billion.

ConAgra shares stood at $16.50 in premarket trading, up from Wednesday's New York Stock Exchange close of $15.56.

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and John Wallace)