Coca-Cola Hellenic (CCHBC) has had a "solid start" to 2008, with sales and profits both rising in the first quarter.

The Greece-based Coca-Cola bottler said today (8 May) that sales in the first three months of 2008 increased in volume by 7% - to 429m unit cases - and by 9% in value - to EUR1.37bn (US$2.11bn). Net profit followed suit, climbing by 11% to EUR28.1m, with operating profit rising by 10% to EUR66.5m.

The company credited "solid organic volume growth, pricing realisation in line with our plans and the roll-out of significant new product innovation ahead of the key summer selling period" as driving the performance in the three-month period. "Against a backdrop of uncertain global economic conditions and persisting commodity cost pressures, we believe the strength of Coca-Cola Hellenic's unique business model of a balanced country portfolio, diverse product range, superior market execution and disciplined use of capital, will enable us to deliver another year of profitable growth."

The company's managing director, Doros Constantinou, said: "Solid organic volume growth was
supported by the launch of Coca-Coca Zero across a further 11 countries of operation and
significant new product innovation across other beverage categories." The success of Coca-Cola Zero, which is now available in 19 of the 28 countries CCHBC operates in, has led to the rebranding of  Fanta Light to Fanta Zero in Switzerland, Italy and Romania. During the quarter, the company also launched Fanta Verdia in Greece, a low-calorie, mildly-carbonated apple and green tea flavoured beverage targeted to "the more health-oriented consumer".

Volume in the still and water product categories grew by double digits in the period.

"Realisation of planned price increases and growth in our profitable single-serve packages helped offset persisting raw material cost pressures and higher investments in sales and marketing costs to support our new product launches."

Constantinou conceded that the first quarter "is typically a small one for our business
and the macroeconomic environment remains uncertain". CCHBC's performance in the quarter, however, prompted Constantinou to say: "The solid start to the year and confidence in our plans provides us comfort in achieving our full year guidance."

The company reiterated its full-year targets of 7% volume growth and an operating profit improvement of between 11% and 13%.

In March, CCHBC signed an agreement with The Coca-Cola Co. and Illycaffè to form a three-party joint venture for the manufacture, marketing, selling and distribution of RTD coffee under the 'Illy' brand across CCHBC's territories. Three RTD espresso-based coffee products have already been introduced in eight of the bottler's markets, CCHBC noted.