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News briefs: CVC, sweetener concerns and Cadbury

By Neil Merrett , 30-Jun-2008

CVC's confectionery operations fails to hold back the private equity firms expansion into the Dutch retail market, US consumer remain undecided over sweetener use and Cadbury eyes profit ahead.

CVC gets competition clearance Private equity group CVC Capital Partners has obtained European Commission clearance to purchase a 73 per cent stake in Netherlands-based retailer Schuitema despite its presence in the country's confectionery market, say press reports CVC is the owner of Leaf, a sugar confectionery manufacturer that supplies products to rival retailer Schuitema, though the commission's competition body said it saw no conflict of interests through the deal, according to the Reuters news agency. The report says the commission decided that while the Leaf company was a major supplier of sugar confectionery products in the country's retail market, it faced competition from a number of large sweet makers. The company will be purchasing the Schuitema shares from the Ahold group for an expected price of €185m. US divided over artificial sweetener A new US survey suggests that consumers in the country are divided over the importance of knowing what artificial sweeteners have been used in a product formulation, according to its author. The research, performed by Harris Interactive, found that in a poll of 2,602 US adults, about half of the surveyed group believed it was extremely or very important to be aware of sweeteners present in food and drink products they consume. Despite these figures, Harris said that three in five of the test subjects thought that artificial sweeteners were either somewhat or not at all safe, while 21 per cent claimed that the products are extremely or very safe for consumption. While there may be uncertainty in the US sweetener market over the need for artificial ingredient awareness, Harris said the findings showed a minority were concerned over safety as yet. Of the respondents, 23 per cent said they were extremely or very concerned over the amount of artificial sweeteners in their diet, according to Harris. By comparison, 77 per cent of the survey group said they were only somewhat or not all concerned over their intakes. Harris says it has conducted the poll of US consumers online between the 5 to 12 May with all subjects tested at least 18 years of age. The research was weighted in terms of age, ethnicity, education and income where possible to bring tests in proportion with the country's population. Cadbury spots future growth Cadbury says it is expecting strong sales improvements during the recent first fiscal half as it adjusts to life as a stand-alone confectionery group. The group, which in May span off its American beverage arm into the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, says that it has benefited from improved sales throughout its portfolio and strong performances in emerging markets. The company says it now expects profits above its previously predicted four to six per cent goals for the full fiscal period. Group chief executive officer Todd Stitzer said that despite the strong opening to the year, the group still expected some difficulties over the remainder of the year. "These results will demonstrate the strength of our total confectionery platform, the benefits of the significant investments made in recent years and the potential of our business," he stated. "Despite the challenging economic outlook and further increases in input costs in the second half, we are confident of a successful outcome for 2008."

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