Soaring demand for Abbott Laboratories' popular at-home COVID-19 tests fueled strong sales growth in the company's most recent quarter.

Illinois-based Abbott on Wednesday reported a 7.2% sales increase in its overall sales in the fourth quarter, a period that coincided with the rise of the fast-spreading omicron variant, yet its quarterly profit fell 8% to about $2 billion.

The "skyrocketing" demand for at-home diagnostics prompted Abbott to ramp up production of its BinaxNOW kits — one of the most popular COVID tests on the market. The company reopened a plant in Illinois that was shuttered last summer when demand waned.

Abbott's chief executive, Robert Ford, told analysts Wednesday the company sold 1 billion COVID tests in 2021. The company has a large presence in Minnesota, but no tests are made here.

In November, the company reported its BinaxNOW product was ranked as the top rapid antigen test in the U.S., based on data from the Nielsen Corp.

For the fourth quarter alone, the company's COVID-related sales accounted for 20% of its revenue of $11.5 billion.

Abbott handily beat the consensus estimate for earnings per share during the fourth quarter, a key metric on Wall Street. The company reported earnings of $1.32 per share, exceeding the analysts' estimate of $1.21 a share.

COVID-19 has hurt financial results for many medical technology companies, but Abbott's product portfolio — including its at-home tests — have fared better.

Abbott reported a full-year profit of $7.1 billion, marking a 57.3% increase compared to a year ago.

"I think that COVID testing is still going to be around. The question is how does it evolve?" Ford said. "We've got profits from COVID that we're reinvesting in the business."

The company has four primary business categories: nutrition, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

In 2017, Abbott acquired St. Paul-based St. Jude Medical Inc. for $25 billion. The company has more than 5,000 employees in Minnesota, which serves as the operational base for its cardiovascular unit.

Sales in the company's medical device division, which includes many cardiac products, were up nearly 22% for the full year. The company rolled out several new devices in 2021 that were developed or are manufactured in Minnesota.

Abbott's stock rose 28.5% during 2021, closing at $140.74 per share at the end of the year. It has declined throughout January, reflecting an overall volatile stock market this month, closing down 2.6% in trading Wednesday at $120.07 a share.