Rising sales and earnings from Groupe Danone's drinks division have helped drive a strong 2006 at the French consumer goods group.

Danone, which produces Evian and Volvic bottled waters, said profits from its beverage business rose 12.5% last year to EUR504m (US$661m). The division also posted a 14.8% jump in revenues to EUR3.9bn.

The company said yesterday (15 February) that its drinks arm had an "outstanding year", driven by innovation programmes in Asia.

"In a difficult trading environment, France was in slight decline but has succeeded in gaining value market share in the plain still water segment, as well as in the healthy beverage segment," Danone said.

Outside France, Danone said its drinks sales had grown by "double-digits" thanks to "strong performances" in Spain, Germany and Poland.

On a group basis, Danone saw operating profit rise 10% to EUR1.9bn on the back of a 9.7% rise in sales to EUR14.1bn.