Merrydown has today issued a trading update ahead of market estimates. The company, which owns Shloer adult soft drink and Merrydown cider brands, saw its share price rise by six-and-a-half pence after announcing the update for the three months to 31 December 2003.

In the statement, the company said that Shloer sales have continued to outperform their peer group in the adult soft drinks sector and have achieved the top end of its expectations over the important Christmas trading period.

Merrydown Vintage, the company's premium cider brand, also enjoyed a slightly improved result compared with Christmas 2002 and a cider sector in general decline.

In view of this performance, and in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, the board anticipates that the results for the year to 31 March 2004 will be ahead of current market expectations.

Nigel Freer, Merrydown's chief executive, said: "The consumer response to our Christmas activity has been very positive and Shloer continues to be a significant driving force in the growth of the premium adult soft drinks market."

In November last year, Merrydown announced a cut in first half losses, as sales increased by 17%. Pre-tax loss for the first half was down to £75,000 from £428,000 for the same period last year.