Nichols hunting more Pandas as acquisitions boost performance

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sugar substitute Soft drink Food standards agency

Soft drinks group on the look-out for new bolt-on opportunities

Vimto maker Nichols is on the acquisition trail again after absorbing recent purchases Panda and Beacon Soft Drinks and selling its food division to a management buy-out team.

Speaking as the company unveiled a 12% rise in pre-tax profit to £2.25m in the six months to June 30, executive chairman John Nichols said he was looking at "bolt-on acquisitions"

The company was also preparing for a January relaunch of kids' brand Panda, he said. "Panda is doing quite well, but every brand needs refreshing periodically.

"There have been some new variants launched over the last year or so, but it's still got a bit of an old-fashioned image. We'll look at what people want and what they are prepared to pay. If we add juice, for example, that will affect the price."

Pumping drinks full of artificial sweeteners was not necessarily the way forward, he said. "Sugar isn't always bad, it depends how much you use."

Government calls for front-of-pack signposting could see some of Nichols' drinks branded with a red sticker if a traffic light system were adopted.

"We'll see what the Food Standards Agency recommends, but a traffic light system is just crazy," said Nichols. "It's also confusing for consumers, as the government hasn't insisted that we all use the same, which means that all the big retailers and manufacturers are using something different."

Low-sugar variants of the flagship brand Vimto were showing the strongest growth and margins had been maintained, said Nichols: "We have put money into advertising, but we have managed to grow our market share without going down the road of deep promotions."

Turnover from continuing operations for the first half was up 24% to £30.5m, thanks to acquisitions.

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