Cider maker Merrydown has reported a rise in sales for the first half of the year following its decision to revamp the brand’s packaging to create more modern bottles and cans.

Operating profit for the first six months stood at £0.78m compared to a loss of £0.10m in 2003, and its group turnover increased by 8% to £8.88m from £8.20m for the same period in 2003.

The company’s Shloer brand saw an increase in turnover of 14% to £5.52m and Merrydown Vintage also grew strongly resulting in a 15% increase in turnover.

Nigel Freer, chief executive of Merrydown said: “The first six months of this financial year have been very busy for Merrydown.

“Both Shloer and Merrydown Vintage have grown strongly in the first half of the year and this positive performance has moved the Group’s half year operating results firmly into profit for the first time in four years.”

The company is reported to be in the midst of takeover talks. Speculation on bidders includes Irish cider and snacks group Cantrell & Cochrane, Irn Bru maker AG Barr and Interbrew.