Dutch brewer Grolsch saw sales and earnings inch up last year, the company reported today (20 February).

Grolsch said that operating profit for last year came in at EUR25.6m (US$m) compared to EUR25.3m in 2005. Turnover was also up, but again only marginally, to EUR317.6m from EUR312m.

Grolsch pointed to slight volume declines in its home market as well as in the UK. The brewer, which had a stand-off with a Dutch supermarket chain last year, saw its domestic market share slip, despite rising on-trade sales.

The brewer also blamed strong price erosion in the UK supermarket channel, with the premium beer segment feeling the pinch from fierce price competition.

The transfer of US distribution rights to Grolsch to Anheuser-Busch failed to lift volumes across the Atlantic but the company said that it is now "in an excellent position for 2007".

In other international markets, margins improved markedly, Grolsch said, with sales volumes growing by 14%, mainly driven by France, Australia, New Zealand and Russia. Total beer sales in volume terms came in at 3.2m hectolitres, down from 3.3m in 2005.

Grolsch also warned that the brewing industry will face steep increases in purchase prices for malt and hops, while higher energy prices will also lead to higher costs.

With a new returnable bottle now available in its home market, and the US distribution change almost complete, Grolsch said that it expects to grow faster than its core markets in 2007. The brewer refrained, however, from giving a results forecast for the year.