Sara Lee Corp. posted a fiscal first-quarter loss in net income Thursday, but the company's results still exceeded reported Wall Street expectations.

The consumer goods company, based in Downers Grove, Ill., reported Thursday a net income loss of $217 million ($0.37 per share), marking a drastic swing from a net income of $194 million ($0.29 per share) in the same quarter last year.

Sara Lee CEO Marcel Smits took an optimistic tone in a statement released with the company's earnings report, basing that optimism on growth in certain segments and margin expansion.

We're pleased with the solid top and bottom line performances of our businesses while facing the challenge of managing volume and margins in an environment of commodity inflation and weak macroeconomic conditions, Smits said.

One of the items Smits cited was the sale of coffee and tea, which increased 26.6 percent from the same period a year ago to $922 million. Sales of specialty meats also increased 12 percent to $307 million.

Next year, Sara Lee is set to split into two public companies - a North American retail and food-focused company and a global beverage and bakery company, which the company said was a spin-off plan.

The solid performance of our base business and our exciting pipeline of innovation give me great confidence that both companies are positioned for successful futures, said Jan Bennink, Sara Lee's executive chairman.

Sara Lee posted an increase in its first-quarter net sales, but the cost of those sales also grew. In a conference call Thursday, Smits said the increased costs totaled about $650 million in the past fiscal year. He also forecasted an additional $500 million this fiscal year, $153 million of which came in the reported quarter.

Revenues grew 12.5 percent this quarter to $1.94 billion, snapping a three-quarter streak of declines.

Shares of Sara Lee jumped 5.34 percent Thursday as of 1:13 p.m. ET.

Write to Brett LoGiurato at