Cadbury Schweppes has announced that the improvement in performance seen in the Q4 2003 has continued into 2004. Speaking to shareholders at the company's annual meeting, Todd Stitzer, chief executive, said: "We have had an encouraging start to the year with good results from all our key business units.

"Particularly, the continued improvement in our US beverage business and strong sales growth in Americas Confectionery where the business is benefiting from investment in marketing and innovation," Stitzer said.

Cadbury said that the Americas Beverages performance has been led by carbonated soft drinks, in particular Dr Pepper and its broad range of diet brands. Sales of the company's non-carbonate brands have been satisfactory overall, it said.

In the UK, the company said that it has seen further market share gains and Easter sales were slightly ahead year-on-year. The company said that its European beverage business is benefiting from core brand focus and improved supply chain efficiencies although consumer demand in a competitive French market has been weak.

In Asia Pacific, its confectionery and beverage operations in Australia are showing good growth versus a difficult first half last year. In Thailand and Japan, the company's gum and medicated businesses continues to perform well and the company has seen a satisfactory sales recovery in India.

"The Fuel for Growth cost reduction programme is delivering savings in line with plan with further benefits expected in the second half. However it is, as expected, experiencing some above inflation cost increases," Stitzer concluded.