Robinsons Fruit Shoot Britvic

Britvic said it was in the process of implementing a number of transformation projects

Britvic is planning a major shake-up of its GB sales force that could result in hundreds of job losses.

Under the leadership of Paul Graham, who has been promoted from customer development director to GB general manager, Britvic said it was in the process of implementing a number of transformation projects.

It said these projects included a simplification of its sales force structure. The soft drinks supplier previously split the team into three channels leisure, grocery and impulse. Now, Britvic said it was merging leisure and impulse so it had one team focused on the in-home channel and another team dealing with the out-of-home channel.

By combining the two teams, Britvic hopes to better serve wholesale customers, in particular, who sell to foodservice companies and c-stores.

It is also understood Britvic is planning to cut the number of customers it works with directly and employ Palmer & Harvey to look after smaller customers. Hundreds of jobs could be lost under the plan because it would result in a restructure of Britvic’s sales and marketing teams, which an insider said was expected to reduce headcount by a third.

Industry sources said they expected to see further restructuring from Britvic.

“The size of the sales force has always been high because of the impulse nature of soft drinks, but they have got to become more efficient if the City is going to change its long-term view and it is going to survive as an independent company,” said a big four soft drinks buyer.

However, suppliers warned that cutting the size of the sales force may be short-sighted. “I can see where Simon [Litherland, CEO] is coming from,” said one supplier. “His background is alcoholic drinks, where the price of an individual sale is a lot higher, and independents and wholesalers are not as important. Our focus has always been on ensuring that distribution and choice is at the maximum, even if there is a higher cost associated with it, because of the lower price of each sale. It will be interesting to see who’s right.”

Britvic said it was considering a number of proposals, but would not comment until it had discussed them with staff and made its final decision.

In May, Britvic revealed it was closing factories in Chelmsford and Huddersfield and combining its GB and Ireland businesses as part of a £30m cost-saving exercise.

The news sent shares rocketing more than 10% in a day to 522.5p and helped Britvic fend off an improved merger offer from AG Barr in July.