Ireland has been the blackspot in strong results for Britvic and the soft drinks maker has warned it does not expect much improvement in the country in 2010.

In October 2008, Britvic posted a healthy leap in full-year sales that were driven primarily by its recently purchased Irish operations.

The firm bought C&C Group'S Irish soft drinks operations in the Republic of Ireland and Ireland, in May 2007. But the unit has since floundered - along with the Irish economy - with sales and volumes continuing to plunge ever since.

Among the brands sold in the deal were Ballygowan water, Cidona, MiWadi, and Energise Sport. Britvic also takes control of the rights to Pepsi and 7Up brands in the countries.

Speaking to investors following the firm’s Soft Drinks Report yesterday (30 March), chief executive Paul Moody told attendees that trends in the market were “not good”.

“There is I think from a macroeconomic and societal perspective some evidence that the Irish population are beginning to move themselves out of the doom and gloom that absolutely engulfed them over the last couple of years. Measures have been taken by the Government that have been well received and are being seen as the right thing to do,” Moody said.

However, he added that from a market perspective it sees the pub market as being “incredibly challenged” with high double-digit decline still.

In November last year, Britvic saw its full-year net sales in Ireland drop 5.6%. And while Moody said it was “encouraged” by a strong group performance in the early weeks of the new financial year, he added that visibility in both GB and Ireland beyond the short term remained “limited”.

The "extremely challenging macro-economic environment" in Ireland for soft drink shows "no indication of a return to growth in the short term", Britvic warned at the time.

Two months on and in January own-brand volumes were down 4% for the first quarter of Britvic's 2010 financial year. The contribution from Britvic Ireland of GBP48.4m for the three-month period was down by 3% on the same period in the prior year. Underlying euro revenues were down by 10.1%. The firm again predicted a “challenging” Irish market through 2010.

Speaking to analysts yesterday, Moody said: “We still see convenience impulse as still suffering, we see grocery improving simply because there are more people moving to grocery for value, and we see a slight slowing of the move from south to north to do shopping although there is still evidence of that.”

While Moody said the firm was cautious not to mislead itself, and that 2010 may be no worse than 2009, he added that there is little evidence to suggest it will be materially better.