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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Soft drinks fuel sales at Cadbury
Cadbury's brands include Dairy Milk chocolate and Dr Pepper drinks
Confectionary group Cadbury Schweppes is celebrating a surge in demand for its diet soft drinks in the US, which ensured profits met expectations.

The maker of Dairy Milk, Trident sugar-free gum and Dr Pepper unveiled a 2% rise in underlying profits to 371m during the first-half.

Sales volumes for soft drinks rose by 23%, Cadbury said, including strong growth in demand for Diet Dr Pepper.

The relaunch of its Dairy Milk range in the UK led to double-digit growth.

Last year, Cadbury gave a makeover to products such as Crunchie, Fruit & Nut and Caramel, which led to a 3% increase in sales, helping it to cling on to its market share of 31%.

Fuel for Growth

As part of an ongoing shake-up at the group, Cadbury is hoping to save 400m through its Fuel for Growth cost reduction programme.

The plan involves closing an estimated 20% of the company's 133 factories worldwide while reducing its 55,000-strong workforce by 10%.

Cadbury currently has eight factories and 3,000 staff in the UK.

Chief executive Todd Stitzer said today that Fuel for Growth was delivering as expected.

"We remain cautiously optimistic about the outcome for the full year and expect to deliver results within our goal ranges," he said.

Mr Stitzer downplayed concerns about the potential impact of the increasingly vocal anti-obesity lobby, saying instead that Cadbury's saw it as an opportunity to boost sales of diet beverages.

Companies such as Cadbury's and fast-food chains are under increasing pressure from various western governments to make their food healthier as obesity becomes a growing concern.

"We're obviously very aware of consumer trends around diet and health," Mr Stitzer said.

"Clearly diet beverages are a place where consumers are consistently moving."

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