Nichols, the soft drinks supplier whose brands include Vimto, Sunkist and Panda, has reported a 10% rise in pre-tax profit (pre-exceptionals) to £22.5m in 2013, which it said was “another excellent year” for the company.

Group sales increased 2% to £109.9m, with continued growth both in the UK and overseas. Earnings per share (pre-exceptional items) were up 11% to 45.8p and the firm proposed a final dividend of 13.3p, taking the total dividend for the year up 13% to 19.62p     

The group said its UK sales gained momentum in the second half of 2013, increasing by 5% year-on-year taking the full year total to £86.8m, 2% ahead of the prior year.

“During 2013 we have also successfully delivered our strategy to improve profitability with both revenue per case and margin showing good improvement compared to 2012,” Nichols said.

The company increased its market share in the still category, with sales of Vimto cordial up 11%. “We continued with our planned reduction in promotional activity in the heavily discounted carbonate sector where our sales declined by 6%.”

Nichols highlighted the impact of last year’s “short spell of good weather not seen since 2006”. “I am pleased to report our service levels were exemplary and, as a result, we benefited during that brief period with a sales uplift in excess of 20%.”

John Nichols, chairman, said: “I am pleased to report another excellent year for Nichols. We have successfully delivered on our strategy to increase our profitability and, pre exceptional items, we have delivered double digit growth to both profit before tax and earnings per share.

“The business continues to be highly cash generative and we propose a final dividend of 13.3p, taking the total dividend for the year up 13% to 19.62p (2012: 17.32p), reflecting the board’s confidence in the outlook for the group.”