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Britvic CEO says drinks maker needs to remain ‘agile and responsive’ as firm reports lockdown-hit profits

·2-min read
<p>Britvic just bought plant-based brand  Plenish as it plans to tap into the soaring demand for milk alternatives </p> (Britvic)

Britvic just bought plant-based brand Plenish as it plans to tap into the soaring demand for milk alternatives

(Britvic)

Robinsons squash owner Britvic has seen sales hit by lockdown's closure of hospitality, but today reinstated its dividend as CEO Simon Litherland said the company has proven its agility and is seeing "really good momentum".

The FTSE 250 firm saw group revenues down 11.7% to £617.1 million in the six months to April, with post-tax profits down 14.7% to £33.2 million.

But sales in supermarkets and convenience stores were up 6.2% year-on-year, above the overall soft drinks market growth of 1.6%, and Britvic said it would pay a dividend of 6.5p a share.

Growth was led by demand for low-calorie drinks including Robinsons and Pepsi Max - Britvic holds UK Pepsi bottling rights - as the wellness trend continues to rise amid the pandemic. Robinsons grew UK sales by 8% in the period.

Litherland, who also credits sales to squash's low cost per serve as families tightened belts, said the firm plans to relaunch its Rockstar brand, alongside other marketing campaigns, in the second half as executives seek a return to growth.

He said: "We think we've delivered a robust performance, particularly given all the Covid restrictions across our markets, which really demonstrates the resilience and agility of our business. We have continued to win in the channels that remain open to us.

"Current trading into April and early May has been encouraging following the easing of lockdowns, so it's early and there's lots of uncertainty out there, but we remain pretty optimistic about the future.

"We've got really good momentum in the at-home, convenience and online channels... We need to remain agile and responsive to the way things pan out - and that's something Britvic has really demonstrated over the years... how to respond, be agile, and come out on top."

Britvic is also aiming to capitalise on the soaring millennial and Gen Z demand for plant-based drinks - demand that has seen brands like Oatly valued in the billions. It has bought London-based high-end alternative milk, cold-pressed juice and health shots marker, Plenish, for an undisclosed sum. The London-based company, which was founded in 2012 by New York-born entrepreneur Kara Rosen, is stocked in Waitrose and M&S.

Rosen and the team are joining Britvic and will bring "beneficial" direct-to-consumer and digital marketing expertise, Litherland said.

He said: "Plant-based drinks is a big category, over £320 million, growing at around 30%... Plenish has about a 5% share [of that market].

"We're really excited about what Britvic can bring."

Shares were up 2.9% this morning.

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