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Nieder-Olm, 12.05. 2005 09:37

Granini extends European market lead

The Eckes-Granini Group recorded consolidated international net turnover of € 678 million ($ 927 million) and volume sales of 841 million litres in 2004, thus reflecting the general market trend, which was down roughly 4% from the extraordinary, and primarily weather-driven, record high achieved in 2003.

On the whole, the European market lacked the above-average dynamism that characterized the preceding year. Sales of the Eckes-Granini core brands also lagged temporarily, although the vigorously expanding Russian market helped offset shortfalls in other countries.

Business was affected primarily by the prevailing general economic weakness and structural changes in nearly every European market, developments which impacted heavily on brand sales. Strong growth among discounters and the promotion of trade labels in the retail food trade also posed major challenges, to which Eckes-Granini responded effectively with its dual brand strategy of combining international and local brands supported by strong investments.

Thanks to continued focus on key strategic brands, which were also promoted much more intensively in the media, sales of these brands grew slightly ahead of the market average. The international Granini brand actually bucked the market trend with strong gains of 5% in volume sales and 6.4 % in turnover.

Eckes-Granini solidified its position in the brand market, especially in the core countries of Germany and France and in Spain and Austria as well. Nearly 70% of Group net turnover came from outside Germany, which shows that the Group's sound international orientation is indeed bearing fruit. In the 8 core countries of Europe in which Eckes-Granini is represented by its own subsidiaries, the Group achieved overall market shares of roughly 10% (volume sales) and 13% (turnover), respectively, in 2004, thereby building its position in the brand market.

Eckes-Granini's innovative strength, reflected in its ability to respond to major trends and develop their potential, once again played a significant role. Sales of new products amounted to 46 million litres, and the majority of innovations is attributable to concept transfer and effective international co-operation.

Key market impulses were generated with innovative beverages offering added functional benefits and wellness features. Examples include "Mild Juices" introduced in almost all countries as well as Vital and Light Syrup concepts.

2004 was also a good year for Eckes-Granini in terms of packaging innovations. Following launches in Switzerland and Finland, Granini and Hohes C were also successfully converted from glass to PET bottles in the German retail food trade, while new consumers were attracted with PET bottles under several different labels in other countries as well. The oval "Ovaline" carton shape developed in collaboration with a packaging supplier for exclusive use by Eckes-Granini for fruit juices was introduced for the leading Joker brand in France and immediately won two prestigious awards for packaging and production technology.

The Group also received awards for new products and packaging innovations in Austria, Germany and Spain.

Eckes-Granini Deutschland, the largest company in the Group, clearly surpassed the overall results of the preceding year. Together, the German and French subsidiaries now account for two-thirds of total Eckes-Granini sales. A solid basis for further exploitation of market trends was established in both countries through the development and implementation of new product and packaging concepts.

In Spain, the Granini brand showed continued growth following the record year 2003. Co-operation with Damm, the new partner in the out-of-home sector, played a key role in this success.

Sales in Russia rose at a triple-digit rate as compared to the preceding year. However, volume sales, market share and earnings still lagged behind expectations, due in part to the failure of the customary summer business boom to materialize.

Volume sales in the Baltic States increased once again and continue to offer strong potential for growth.

The focus on profitable strategic brands and the shift away from unprofitable volumes brought success in Austria and Finland as well, where earnings improved despite lower volume sales.

The EbIT and the EbIT margin of € 35.8 million and 5.3%, respectively, nearly matched the high 2003 levels, thanks to concentration on strategic brands. Cost discipline, synergies within the European network, currency effects and conditions affecting raw materials markets had a positive combined impact on earnings. The slight decline from the record high of 2003 is primarily attributable to lower volume sales in temporarily shrinking markets.

In August of this year, Peter Thiel, Chairman of the Board of Directors, will be succeeded by Thomas Hinderer after 27 years of service and a record of major successes on behalf of the fruit juice industry in general and Eckes-Granini, a steadily growing European market leader, in particular. He will join the Supervisory Board of the Eckes-Granini Group. Mr. Thiel offered the following remarks on the company’s business performance during the past year:

"The power of our strategic brands is the backbone of our business success. By focusing on them, we are able to generate the value required to achieve good earnings even in difficult economic phases.
Millions of consumers appreciate the very things that make our brands strong: superior product quality, flavour diversity, innovative concepts with added value and last but not least, convincing convenience benefits. This builds trust and a sense of identification, and it ensures Eckes-Granini's market lead over the long term."

Measures initiated in 2004 have already born fruit in the first quarter of the current year, with both turnover and earnings well above those of the comparable period last year. Thus the prospects for Eckes-Granini in business year 2005 are good.

Eckes-Granini GmbH & Co. KG, with headquarters in Nieder-Olm near Frankfurt, is the market leader in fruit juices, fruit nectars and fruit-based beverages in Europe. The company has subsidiaries in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Nordic countries, Poland, Russia, Spain and Switzerland. Its brand portfolio includes the international brands Granini and Hohes C as well as such local brands as Clippo, Fruchttiger, Joker, Marli, Mehukatti, Réa, Sió and Yo. Eckes-Granini products are sold in more than 70 different countries through subsidiaries and export activities.

Eckes-Granini GmbH & Co. KG is a subsidiary of Eckes AG, a financial holding company and majority shareholder. Eckes AG is also the sole shareholder of Eckes & Stock GmbH, an international producer and supplier of spirits, wines and sparkling wines.

Ronald Felber
Senior Vice President Marketing / Sales International and Press Officer
Tel. + 49 6136 35 1101
Fax. +49 6136 35 2101
Email: [email protected]

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