Canadian soft drinks producer Cott Corp. has insisted that its turnaround plan was in line with expectations despite posting a first-quarter loss of US$2.1m.

Cott, the world's largest producer of own-brand soft drinks, said today (20 April) that the loss for the three months to 1 April was due to stock option expenses and one-off charges. Sales were flat, hitting US$394.2m, compared to US$395.5m last year. Excluding acquisitions, however, first-quarter sales fell 5%.

"Our first quarter results reflect the progress of our North American realignment in stabilising the business. The results are in line with our plan as we continue taking aggressive action to position Cott for longer term profitability," said John Sheppard, Cott's president and CEO.
"As we have said previously, our focus during 2006 is to improve margins and take steps to increase Cott's presence in non-carbonated beverage segments."

Cott's sales in North America fell 8% on the year due, the company said, to a change in a manufacturing agreement with one of its customers.

"Additional factors impacting North American sales in the quarter were product and packaging rationalisation, continued softness in the carbonated soft drink category and lower bottled water shipments," the company said.

Sales in the UK and Europe leapt 50%, buoyed by contributions from the UK's Macaw (Soft Drinks) Ltd, which Cott acquired last year. Sales in the region rose by 4% on a like-for-like basis. Cott added that international sales were up 14%, boosted by growth in Mexico.