C&C Group said today (9 May) that it will continue to invest behind its burgeoning cider and Irish whiskey brands after a year of rising sales and earnings.

The Irish drinks firm posted a 13% rise in operating profit to EUR124.7m (US$158.1m) for the year to 28 February, on the back of a 9% increase in revenues to EUR817m. The strong performance was driven by continued growth from C&C's cider brands - Bulmers and Magners - and increased shipments of Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.

The company's chief executive Maurice Pratt said: "C&C is pleased to report continuing revenue and earnings growth. We will continue to invest in the sustainable growth opportunities presented by Magners, Bulmers, and Tullamore Dew."

Magners volumes more than doubled as the brand's launch in London surpassed expectations. C&C is planning a national roll-out for the brand several months ahead of schedule. Bulmers, the name under which Magners is sold in Ireland, out-performed the country's beer, cider and RTDs category with volume growth of 6%.

Marketing spend on Tullamore Dew is set to increase after seeing depletions leap by around 19%. C&C said the sales increase was due to its strategy of pushing the brand in markets with "attractive growth opportunities" including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

However, the company's cream liqueur, Carolans, saw price competition in the category in the UK hit sales. Shipments fell 5%. C&C said its hazelnut liqueur, Frangelico, had had "an overall solid in-market performance recording a small growth in depletions".

Turning to soft drinks, C&C said it hoped to stabilise that division after losing the Irish distribution rights to Volvic and Evian last November. The company's soft drinks volumes dipped 0.5% last year.

The company added: "In overall terms, the group expects to deliver continued revenue and operating profit growth for the 2006/07 full year. However, given the extent of the marketing investment to support Magners roll out, earnings growth is expected to be heavily weighted towards the second half of the year."