Swedish confectionery firm Cloetta Fazer has said sales of its top 12 brands were up 2% in the fourth quarter and 5% for the full year 2004.

The company said it continued to perform well in its main markets in Sweden and Finland throughout the fourth quarter.

Cloetta Fazer’s net sales in 2004 totalled SEK3.02bn (US$427.5m), compared to SEK3.03bn in the previous year. Excluding restructuring charges and other non-recurring items, operating profit was SEK400m, up from SEK390m in 2003. Operating profit for the fourth quarter, excluding restructuring charges and other non-recurring items, was SEK160m, compared to SEK176m in the year-ago period.

“The drop in fourth-quarter earnings is mainly due to an increase in marketing activities, which is part of the group’s strategy to strengthen the position of our prioritised brands,” said Cloetta Fazer’s CEO, Karsten Slotte.

A focus on the top 12 brands and a more active marketing approach contributed to a 28% increase in sales of Dumle on the Swedish and Finnish markets during the year, the company said. In addition, high-impact sales promotion and media campaigns for Kexchoklad in Sweden and Fazer Blue in Finland generated robust growth for these two brands.

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“Our strategy to concentrate on the strongest brands has proven effective,” Slotte added. “It has enabled us to expand our share of the Swedish and Finnish markets and raise combined sales of our top 12 brands in both relative and absolute terms.”

However, the company said the negative trend in Poland continued and Cloetta Fazer posted another loss in that market.