Cott Corp. has posted a plunge in Q1 profits. The Canadian maker of store-brand soft drinks said yesterday (21 April) that income for the three months to 2 April reached US$8.3m, or 12 cents per share, compared to US$15.4m, or 21 cents per share in the corresponding period last year.

Sales were up, however, by 7% to US$395.5m from US$370.9m a year earlier.

"We were pleased to see continued sales growth, despite category weakness," said John K. Sheppard, Cott's president and chief executive officer. "Price increases have been accepted by all our US and Canadian customers and took effect throughout the quarter. Although our earnings were disappointing, we saw favourable trends in both plant efficiencies and gross margins through the quarter and expect these positive trends to continue."

Despite recent price increases, Cott said that its guidance on sales growth for the year remains unchanged at between 8% and 10%. The company's full-year earnings are expected to be reduced, however, by a shift in product mix and higher than originally anticipated plant costs. Assuming current levels of ingredient and packaging costs, EBITDA is projected to be between US$220m and US$230m, and earnings per diluted share are expected to be in the range of US$1.14 and US$1.18, compared with an earlier estimate of US$1.21 to US$1.25.