Strong growth for the Monster Energy drink brand has lifted sales and profit at Hansen Natural Corp in the third quarter, the group has said.

Net revenue rose 15% to US$285m for the three months ended 30 September, Hansen announced yesterday (6 November). Net income rose 14.5% to $54m.

The group attributed the growth to its Monster Energy and Java Monster drinks, which it said have increased sales ahead of the market this year.

Hansen's performance will be welcomed by The Coca-Cola Co and its bottling arm, Coca-Cola Enterprises, which last month signed a deal to gain exclusive distribution rights on Monster Energy in six Western European countries, Canada and parts of the US.

Hansen CEO and chairman Rodney Sacks warned that the energy drinks sector was just as vulnerable to the economic slowdown as other soft drinks categories, however.

Commenting on a soft drinks market slowdown in the US, he said: "This weakness is most pronounced in convenience store cold drink channels, where the vast majority of energy drinks are sold. We continue to believe that the moderating growth in the energy drink segment appears, in part, to be due to the challenging current macro economic environment and the resulting decline in store traffic."

Analyst group Stifel Nicolaus, which has followed the Coca-Cola, Hansen tie-up closely, said last month that Monster and Red Bull had continued to gain share over other brands, including Coca-Cola's Full Throttle and PepsiCo's SoBe.

Hansen said that net sales for the first nine months of 2008 rose by 18.5% to $779m, with net profit up 26% to $131.5m.