Vimto-maker Nichols reveals pandemic squash sales bump as parents work from home


imto-maker Nichols has revealed parents have been turning to traditional school-style drinks to keep their children hydrated through days of home education.

The AIM-listed firm’s new boss Andrew Milne, who took up the post on January 1 after former boss Marnie Millard stepped down, told the Standard the soft drinks group saw squash sales up 24% in 2020.

The Merseyside-based firm, which sells Vimto in 85 countries worldwide and also owns the Sunkist and Levi Roots drinks, also said its flagship brand saw “strong growth” in the UK despite the pandemic.

Milne said: “The really strong performance came on our squash business, where we grew at 24% – outperforming the market by 11 percentage points. That was a real positive, and something we were really pleased about.

“People have been at home more, and therefore consumed products like squash more, because a) they’re seen as healthy because of the amount of water you add, and b) because they’re seen as good value products for parents to give to their children.”

The company now plans to invest further in its squash brands as a result, Milne said.

The news came as the company reported revenues down 19.3% to £118.7 million in the year to December 31, with an 84% plunge in hospitality sector sales in the fourth quarter as the country faced Tier 3 and 4 restrictions.  

Nichols has reduced spending and carried out a review of its business since the pandemic hit. 

Milne highlighted the company’s cash reserves of £47.3 million – up from £40.9 million at the end of the prior year, and strong supermarket sales.

He said Nichols had been protected to an extent from the worst effects of the pandemic by its diverse business model, which already included a focus on at-home retail.

“We’re quite fortunate in that we have always had a long term strategy with a diversified business model. We have a strong business with the supermarkets, discounters, and wholesalers, and we have our out of home business, and the international business, so we have never had all our eggs in one basket,” he said.

“We were pleased with our cash generation and the strengthened balance sheet that that gives us. Overall, underpinned by the strength of our diversified business model, although it has been a tough year last year, and Q1 this year with the hospitality industry being closed will be tough again, we do feel very confident about the mid-to-long term strategic plans we have got in place.”

Nichols will publish 2020 preliminary results on March 3. 

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