The firm, which has a UK portfolio that includes Vimto, Panda, Sunkist and Weight Watchers, said it had driven calories per 100ml for ready-to-drink products down 18%, compared to 2011 baseline figures.
More than a quarter of its drinks sales were now derived from no-added-sugar beverages, versus 19% in 2011 and it had reduced its total sugar use by 20%, it said.
In addition to these efforts, the firm said it would specifically develop healthier choices this year.
“Corporate responsibility issues within our sector have never been more prevalent, particularly around the issue of obesity,” said the company in a preliminary results statement for the year to December 31.
“Through our membership of the British Soft Drinks Association we have made a commitment to the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal and we are actively participating in the Calorie Reduction Pledge.
“We will continue to provide our consumers with choice and transparency in their product selection and further development in this area will be evident in 2014.”
Nichols’ healthier drinks offering now includes the Levi Roots Zero range, launched last year.
Commenting on its financial performance over the year, Nichols said despite overall growth, it had taken a hit in carbonate sales, which had fallen by 6% as it scaled back promotions. That said, it stressed its Vimto brand had bucked the sector trend, growing sales by 4.3%.
The company had faced exceptional annual costs of £3.7M, covering a £2M litigation claim from a licensee in Pakistan, centring on its rights to make and distribute Vimto cordial in the country. Nichols is defending itself against the law suit.
It warned it expected the overall trading climate to continue to be tough this year. However, it said it saw promise in the fast-growing energy drinks category, having added the Extreme Sports and Energy brand to its portfolio last year.
Nichols posted a 10% rise in 2013 pre-tax profit, from £20.5M to £22.5M, on 2% group revenue growth, from £107.8M to £109.9M. Sales growth sped up in the second half of the financial year, compared to the second half of 2012, it said.
Commenting on trading highlights, ceo Marnie Millard said: “In 2013 the UK enjoyed a short spell of good weather not seen since 2006. I am pleased to report our service levels were exemplary and, as a result, we benefited during that brief period with a sales uplift in excess of 20%.”
Internationally, the company claimed to have grown sales by 21% in Africa and achieved a stable Middle East performance.