Eckes-Granini, the Germany-based soft drinks and juice group, has reported a dip in net sales for 2008, with volumes hit by the firm's withdrawal from the Russian market.

Eckes-Granini said last week that net sales dipped by 0.4% to EUR917m (US$1.2bn) for the 12 months of 2008.

Volume sales fell by nearly 6%, the juice group said, following the firm's withdrawal from the "risk-ridden Russian market" during the year. Volume sales of fruit beverages fell by 7%, the firm said.

Operating profits rose by 26% for the period, to EUR48.4m, said the privately owned company, adding that the rise was due to its focus on added value drinks. Net earnings figures were not detailed in the company's results statement or annual report for 2008.

In its 2008 annual report, Eckes-Granini said it was cautious about growth over the next 12 months: "Forecasts for 2009 indicate that markets will remain under pressure due to the global economic crisis, as became evident toward the end of 2008. This trend was also accompanied by rising demand for lower-priced consumer products."

One of the firm's top performers in 2008 was its hohes C juice brand, which increased volume sales in Germany by 6% during the year.

Volume sales growth of Finnish brand Marli slowed to 5%, compared to rises of 20% in 2006 and 2007, said the group, which claims a 12% share of Europe's fruit beverage market.