Cadbury Schweppes chief executive, John Sunderland, said yesterday that the company's year had begun "reasonably", despite the fac tthat the trading environment "has certainly become no easier in recent months."

But talking at the company's AGM Sunderland said that Cadbury Schweppes was expecting 2003 profits growth in North America beverages to be flat. "In North America the combination of an unusually severe winter and a weak economy has impacted consumer demand for soft drinks. Given this and the already announced changes to our distribution arrangements for 7 UP, we expect profits for our total North Americas Beverage business in 2003 to be broadly in line with 2002 in constant currency terms."

However, Cadbury's confectionary business was performing in line with expectations. "Trebor Bassett has had a strong start to the year and a particularly good Easter," he said.

Sunderland concluded: "The developments in North American beverages and the acquisition of Adams will mean, as we said at the time of our preliminary results, that 2003 will be a transitional year and this will affect delivery against our earnings and cash flow targets this year. However, we remain confident of a satisfactory outcome overall for 2003 as we build a substantial platform for revenue and profit growth in future years."