It’s been a good week on the UK soft drinks market as Irn-Bru maker AG Barr and Tango and Robinsons maker Britvic both reported trading ahead of expectations, writes Michelle Russell.

AG Barr's share price crept up 0.6% to GBP8.2 yesterday (28 January) after the soft drinks maker said it expects full-year sales and profits ahead of market expectations, largely thanks to its flagship Irn-Bru brand and the acqusition of the Rubicon business.

The UK firm said that it anticipates total sales will reach GBP220m (US$357.7m) for the 12 months to the end of December, representing 20% growth on 2008.

Britvic had a little extra fizz. Its share price rose 6.8% on Wednesday (27 January) to GBP4.3 after saying it was confident of meeting board forecasts for the full-year to 3 October. Sales for the past three months rose 11% to GBP242.7m.

UK and international sales grew by 15.2%, representing UK carbonates growth of 20.1%, UK stills growth of 9.6%, and Britvic international growth of 5.1%.

Analysts remained pretty positive on the business, despite problems in Ireland.

Jonathan Cook, analyst at RBS, said in the Guardian newspaper that Britvic continues to outperform the soft drinks market and consensus expectations, driven by improved operating performance and distribution gains in particular.

“Britvic remains at a discount to the European beverages sector, despite continued momentum, increased medium-term growth guidance and M&A opportunities,” he said.

Britvic remained cautious on its second quarter, with particular regard to consumer confidence and spending in the balance of the financial year.

However, a note from Evolution Securities analyst Andrew Holland said: “Britvic is cautious on the second quarter, citing tougher comparisons and poor January weather, but our current sales growth forecast of 3.4% for the full year looks low, especially given that this is a 53 week year.”

Ireland remained the thorn in Britvic's side, with sales falling by 10% - continuing a trend of the past couple of years.

The Telegraph newspaper wrote that it believes Britvic’s international business has “room for expansion” over the next few years.

“The company’s relationship with drinks giant PepsiCo could easily be leveraged into Europe, where Pepsi bottling franchises are fragmented and generally owned by brewers,” it said.

For now, strong statements from both Britvic and AG Barr will lift the UK soft  drinks sector as the country emerges from recession.