Cott Corp. is to axe jobs and overhaul its senior management as the soft drinks producer's new chief executive looks to stem a slump a profits.

Brent Willis, who became Cott's chief executive in May, announced the moves yesterday (27 July) after the Canadian company saw first-half profits crash by 53% year-on-year.

Falling demand for carbonated soft drinks across North America has hit Cott hard. The company plans to cut 77 jobs and create two separate divisions for its North American and international operations after Willis, a former executive at InBev, spent his first two months reviewing Cott's business.

The job cuts are expected to save Cott around US$8m a year. The newly-created divisions, formed to drive efficiencies in sales and distribution, will be supported by four centralised units for functions including production, the company said.

John Dennehy, Cott's senior vice president, sales and marketing, will head the North American unit. Dennehy replaces Mark Benadiba, who was appointed last September to led Cott's operations in North America when the company previously tried to revitalise the business.

Cott has appointed New World Pasta Co. boss, Wynn Willard, to head its international division.

"Remaking Cott is not without its challenges," said Willis. "As we go forward, we will have an unwavering focus on both cost reduction and growth to lead the company from good to great. This will require disciplined execution, something that has not been a strength within the company in the immediate past, but will be a key driver to result in superior, sustainable and profitable growth over time."

Cott saw first-half profits slump to US$30.7m due to weak demand for CSDs in North America and as the company sold more concentrate, rather than filling containers of soft drinks to a key customer.

Revenues in the UK and Europe soared 56% on the back of Cott's acquisition of UK soft drinks group Macaw in April. Rising sales in Mexico drove sales from Cott's international business up 18%. In all, first-half group revenues inched up 1% to US$896.2m.