Food and drink behemoth PepsiCo has reported a 30% surge in profits for the fourth quarter.

The company posted net earnings of $897 million (€715m; £489m) for the last three months of the year, up from $689m in Q4 2002. Revenues increased by 9.4% to $8.1 billion.

Paradoxically, PepsiCo -- owner of countless snacks and soft drinks -- was helped by rising concerns about obesity. At its drinks unit, diet beverages, bottled water and non-carbonated drink Gatorade all posted double-digit percentage sales growth, while its Frito-Lay food division posted a 20% surge in sales of healthy snack products.

Overall, North American sales increased 6% at Frito Lay and 11% at the drinks division, though the Quaker Oats unit saw revenues fall. Outside North America, turnover surged 15% to $2.78bn.

Chairman/ceo Steven S Reinemund declared that 2003 was one of PepsiCo's best ever years. Earnings per share rose 21% over the twelve months, while revenues climbed 7.4%.

Reinemund added that 2004 would see significant advertising support for the group's Classic Lay's potato chips and flagship cola Pepsi. The company also plans to expand its portfolio of low-fat and low-carbohydrate products.

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff