Britvic back on the growth track

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coca-cola

Soft drinks maker Britvic had sales of carbonated and still soft
drinks ahead of the UK market in its first half, an encouraging
sign for the industry's prospects.

Branded drinks sales grew nine per cent to £353.6m for the six months to 15 April, Britvic said.

Operating profit rose 30 per cent to £24m. The rise shows Britvic has recovered from a wobbly first half in 2006, and puts the firm slightly ahead of comparable sales for the same period in 2005.

Both carbonated and still drinks played their parts, although chief executive Paul Moody made clear the momentum remained with the latter for now.

Britvic, which holds licences on PepsiCo drinks in the UK, saw its carbonated range hold off a consumer shift away from the category to post a 9.6 per cent sales rise.

This category is now back at 2005 revenue levels, something Moody attributed to a larger presence in discount retailers and a strong Pepsi brand.

But it was again the still drinks portfolio which appeared a more promising bet for the future.

Sales rose 8.5 per cent to £166.8m, and up £11m on 2005 levels, thanks to the expanding Fruit Shoot H2O children's drink, Robinsons squash and J2O. New products will be launched in the second half, including Robinsons Smooth Juice and Fruit Shoot 100% Juice, to reflect an ongoing consumer shift towards healthier drinks.

Moody said: "The encouraging trading trends seen over the period have continued through the early weeks of the second half and as a result, we remain confident with regard to the full year outcome. "

Britvic last week announced an expansion into Ireland after agreeing to buy the soft drinks business of Irish group, C&C, for £169.5m cash.

Britvic will take on C&C's licences for Pepsi and 7UP brands as well as the country's number one bottled water brand, Ballygowan.

It also plans to save £14m annually by integrating the business with its British operation.

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