Britvic’s volumes hit

SOFT drinks group Britvic said yesterday that its volumes had suffered as last month’s snow and ice kept drinkers away from pubs while competitors stepped up discounts.

Essex-based Britvic, the company behind brands including Robinsons, Tango and Fruit Shoot, reported a 3.5% decline in sales of still drinks for the final quarter of 2010, with the early winter freeze adding to problems faced by the hard-pressed pubs sector.

The company, which holds the rights to sell Pepsi products in the UK and which also launched the American energy drink Mountain Dew on to the British market towards the end of last year, also suffered a 0.2% decline in volumes of carbonated drinks.

In a statement to shareholders at its annual general meeting, Chelmsford-based Britvic attributed the pressure on carbonated sales to increased promotional activity by competitors.

While the volume of drinks sold declined during the final quarter, Britivic said its UK revenues had increased 0.8% as a result of price increases, although the growth was far short of the 15.4% increase achieved during the equivalent period a year earlier.

Overall group sales were 20% ahead, however, boosted by Britvic’s acquisition of French business Fruite Entreprises, now known as Britvic France, for 237million euros (�198m) last May.

The final quarter sales figures represent a marked slowdown for Britvic, with the group having reported a strong set of results in the year to October 3, including UK volume increases for still and carbonates of 3.5% and 10.2% respectively.

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Britvic said yesterday that its UK take-home sales volume had increased by 3.4% in the final quarter, although its market share remained flat.

However, there was better news from the group’s Irish business which last year took a �104.2m hit in the form of a write-down following a 5.4% slump in sales amid the recession.

The group said yesterday the Irish business had demonstrated “an element of relative improvement” in the final quarter of 2010, with volume sales and revenues in the grocery market up by 2.8% and 0.7% respectively while the rate of decline in the pub and club sector slowed to 7%.

Britvic was positive about its future prospects, saying that it expected an improvement in its performance, although it warned that commodity price rises were likely to rise by between 5% and 6% in the next year, with juice and sugar being particularly affected.

“Whilst we expect the consumer and cost environment to remain challenging, we are confident in our ability to compete strongly in the markets in which we operate,” said Britvic chairman Gerald Corbett:.

“Our extensive plans for Britvic France are being successfully executed in-country, and Britvic International is again making significant progress around the world,” he added.