SOFT drinks group Britvic, shortly to merge with Scottish rival AG Barr, is to accelerate the overseas rollout of its Fruit Shoot kids drink as it recovers from a costly recall of the brand over safety concerns last summer.
Britvic, whose £1.4 billion merger with the maker of Irn-Bru will create one of the largest European soft beverages businesses, will increase the distribution of Fruit Shoot to 30 American states, it revealed yesterday. The children’s drink will also launch in Spain in the spring.
The Hertfordshire-based group added that production had returned to levels seen before July’s recall, under which it withdraw all newly designed bottles of Fruit Shoot and spin-off Fruit Shoot Hydro because of faulty bottle tops.
In a trading update, Britvic, whose products also include Robinsons Barley Water, said UK sales volumes of its still drinks fell 6.4 per cent in the first quarter as it continued to be hit by low supply of Fruit Shoot before production returned to normal this month.
Sales volumes overall in Britain rose 2.1 per cent – 5.4 per cent by value – after a better performance from fizzy drinks. Overall revenues increased 4.8 per cent, excluding currency movements. But Britvic warned it has seen a slower start to its second quarter amid the headwinds of continuing consumer caution.
In November, the company posted a 19 per cent slump in yearly profits to £84.4 million after a near-£17m provision from the Fruit Shoot recall, which affected supply in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK.
The group said it had now struck a distribution deal with Pepsi to roll out Fruit Shoot to convenience stores and filling stations across 30 American states. It has already been piloted in nine states.
The Barr deal is expected to conclude next month.