Price hike warning as Tennent’s lager owner C&C reports sales ahead of pre-pandemic levels

Tennent’s lager owner C&C Group has reported “solid” trading but warned that inflationary pressures could trigger fresh price hikes.

In a trading update to investors to coincide with its annual shareholder meeting, the group said net revenues were 6 per cent ahead of pre-pandemic levels for the four months to the end of June, as the firm enters its traditionally busy summer trading period.

The Irish drinks group, whose other brands include Magners cider and Heverlee lager, added: “Notwithstanding this, the group continues to operate in a challenging inflationary environment and remains vigilant on the potential impacts of this on both our cost base and the pressures being faced by consumers, which could impact future demand.

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“We have a significant proportion of our manufacturing input costs fixed for [the current financial year] and will continue to proactively manage our cost base, while assessing any necessary price increases to recover inflation pressure across the business as the year progresses.”

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The group also reported a “significant improvement” in its net debt position, reflecting the continued recovery in trading. It plans to return capital to shareholders “in due course”, assuming current trading conditions continue.

C&C confirmed that after four years as chairman and ten years on the board, Stewart Gilliland was not seeking re-election and will be succeeded by Ralph Findlay, subject to shareholder approval, at the conclusion of the annual meeting.

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Findlay, former chief executive of pubs giant Marston’s: “I would like thank Stewart for his commitment and stewardship of C&C, during which time the group has transformed into the leading final-mile distributor to the on-trade in the UK and Ireland, while navigating the business through the most challenging period in our industry’s history.

“The group has iconic brands, a leading distribution network and a strong capital structure to sustain its future growth ambitions. I look forward to playing a role in driving the future success of the business for all our stakeholders including customers, consumers, employees and shareholders.”

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Tennent's, which is brewed at the Wellpark brewery in Glasgow, is Scotland's biggest selling lager brand. Picture: Andy Buchanan

In May, C&C reported strong sales of its iconic Scottish lager which will now come in a lighter weight pint can as it looks to keep a lid on soaring costs.

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Reporting a swing to a full-year operating profit, the group said its vast Tennent’s Wellpark brewery site in Glasgow had “continued to build its sustainability credentials”. During the COP26 summit in the city, the brewery hosted dignitaries and events, showcasing the investment the site has made in removing CO2 - 4,000 tonnes in the past financial year - and removing 150 tonnes of single use plastic over the same period.

The group said Tennent’s performance had been aided by Scotland qualifying for the first time in 23 years for a major football championship - the Euros.

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A “multi-channel” advertising campaign and associated on and off-trade promotional activity helped in part to drive brand health improvement.

Details of Tennent’s performance came as C&C posted an operating profit of €47.9 million (£40.8m) for the 12 months to February 28. That compared with an operating loss of €63.6m a year earlier.

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