The news came as the company announced preliminary results for 2006, which showed strong market growth for its top four brands - Foster's, Kronenbourg 1664, John Smith's and Strongbow - and an operating profit of £206 million in the UK. Volume sales of these brands went up 6.8 per cent and net sales were up 6.9 per cent. Overall, the company's branded beer and cider business saw volume sales up 3.8 per cent and net sales up 4.5 per cent, helping it to achieve a beer market share of 26.5 per cent.
The company 's brands in the cider over-ice category also helped boost profits . Net sales of Strongbow Sirrus, Bulmer's Original and Jacques grew 15.3 per cent (net) help ing S&N capture a 16.4 per cent share of the cider over-ice category.
The company said: "There has been remarkable growth in the category and we are pleased with the initial performance of our portfolio brands .
"We believe our responsible approach to the marketing of cider has been critical to the category's success since the acquisition of Bulmers in July 2003."