Soft drink and food group Nichols plc has announced that its turnover for the first half of 2002 was up 5.5% to £47.78m. Profit before tax however fell from £1.746m, for the same period last year, to £1.655m after what chairman Jon Nichols called "challenging" trading conditions.

The maker of Vimto and Sunkist saw its earnings per share fall from 3.36p to 3.18p.

However Nichols said: "Although UK trading conditions remain challenging, especially in our soft drinks operation where the appalling weather has hindered progress, our international business is ahead of last year at the halfway stage and orders for the second half are strong.

"The board remains confident that with an improved trading performance in our traditionally much stronger second half and with four of our five businesses now benefiting from new management, the group's performance in the full year to December 2002 will be ahead of the previous year."