Strong demand for the Vimto brand in the UK and abroad has led soft drinks group Nichols to report healthy rises in sales and profits for the first half of 2009.

Net sales for the six months to the end of June rose by 28% to GBP37.5m (US$63.6m), compared to the same period a year earlier, Nichols said today (5 August). Net profits rose by 37% to GBP3.2m for the half-year.

Demand for flagship soft drink Vimto led the rise in sales. Vimto sales grew by 13% in the UK during the six months, with carbonated Vimto up 15%, against a soft drinks market down by 2% in the same period, Nichols said.

Vimto sales abroad rose by 22.6%, thanks to growth in Africa and the Middle East.

Nichols, which relaunched Vimto in the UK in May, said that it would continue to support the drink with its tv ad campaign "seriously mixed up fruit", and is also "seeding" sales in South Africa and China.

John Nichols, group non-executive chairman, said: "The soft drinks market generally appears to be resilient, particularly given the wider pressures on consumer spending."

he added: "We expect that we will continue to grow during the second half and for the full year, we anticipate that profits will be ahead of last year and also ahead of current market expectations".