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UPDATE 2-Campari expects double-digit growth for Aperol in 2021

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MILAN, May 4 (Reuters) - Campari’s CEO said on Tuesday he expected the Italian group’s best-selling drink Aperol to return to double-digit growth this year after a flat performance in 2020.

In the first quarter, the beverage group exceeded like-for-like sales expectations, helped by the growing consumption of spirits in the United States and northern Europe.

The sale of Aperol, however, was little changed between January and March, while whiskey and tequila brands rose strongly.

Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said Aperol’s first-quarter sales were lacklustre because of a tough comparison with the same period last year, when U.S. beverage suppliers boosted orders ahead of a planned price rise for Aperol by Campari effective from April 2020.

In an interview with Reuters, he said the weakness in Aperol shipments to the U.S. in the first quarter was only a temporary.

“We expected Aperol sales to grow double digits in the full-year 2021 compared with 2020,” Kunze-Concewitz said, adding that both Italy and the United States would post a good performance for the orange-coloured aperitif as the two countries eased restrictions linked to the pandemic.

Campari bought Aperol at the end of 2003 and popularized it, first in Europe and then overseas, by promoting the Spritz cocktail. The aperitif now accounts for roughly one-fifth of the group’s total sales.

“We are working to open a brand house for the drink in Venice in September,” Kunze-Concewitz said.

In the first quarter, Campari reported sales of 398 million euros ($477.8 million). That was up 17.9% year-on-year on an organic basis, stripping out currency swings and acquisitions or asset disposals, against analyst expectations of 6-7% .

Adjusted operating profit jumped 43% to 68.5 million euros.

“Revenge conviviality will boost demand for cocktails as consumers are gradually allowed to return to bars and restaurants in Italy and in other European countries,” Kunze-Concewitz said.

He said conditions were ripe for a good second-quarter performance for the beverage group.

($1 = 0.8331 euros)

Reporting by Francesca Landini Editing by David Goodman and Bernadette Baum

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