A SOFT drinks firm with operations in Huddersfield today reported a surge in sales of healthy drinks.

Britvic said growing demand for drinks such as its Birkby-based Pennine Spring range of bottled water had offset a dip in sales of fizzy drinks.

Sales of still drinks, also including Fruit Shoot H2O and J2O, rose by 5.6% in the second half of the year compared with a 1% fall in the first half.

Revenues from fizzy drinks fell by 4.7% in the second half of the year following a 9% decline in the first half as health-conscious drinkers turned away from brands such as Tango.

Group revenues for the year fell by 2.6% to £677m. Operating profits were flat at £73.7m while pre-tax profits were down by 20% to £55.9m - broadly in line with market expectations.

The group said controls on costs had led to savings of £13m, including £11m on overheads.

The group, chaired by Gerald Corbett, declared a final dividend of 7p a share to take the full-year payout to 10p a share.

Chief executive Paul Moody said the company had achieved "a marked improvement" in sales volumes and revenues during the second half of the financial year.

He said: "We have maintained a sharp focus on cost savings and cash management against the backdrop of a difficult carbonates market and continued growth in the stills market.

"The improved revenue trends seen in the second half have continued into the new financial year."

Mr Moody said Britvic remained cautious about prospects for the market for fizzy drinks, but said: "We are confident that in the year ahead we will continue to make progress on margins."

He said Britvic was well-placed to benefit from the continuing consumer trend towards health and well-being.

"Our new brand and product innovations, scheduled for launch in the first half of calendar 2007, remain focused on the growing stills category," said Mr Moody.