"We believe we have created a high-powered growth machine," declared Todd Stitzer, chief executive of Cadbury Schweppes yesterday presenting full-year results powered by the strongest sales performance for a decade.
Cadbury scaled back innovation in its UK confectionery in the second half of the year so as not to overload a new IT system, with the result that domestic sales rose by only two per cent in a year when more than half its growth in confectionery came from emerging markets.
But overall, Mr Stitzer said, said it had overtaken Mars for the first time to become the world's biggest selling confectioner, securing a 9.9 per cent global market share.
Overall sales grew by 6.3 per cent to £6.51 billion in 2005, while underlying profits were 12 per cent ahead at £873 million. Free cash flow grew to £404 million.
The balance sheet was strengthened by £1.26 billion from the sale of the European beverages operation, bringing borrowings down to £2.8 billion now from £3.9 billion at the year-end and £4.27 billion at the start of 2005.
Some of the European sale proceeds was used as a one-off payment of £125 million to lower pension deficits in the US as well as Britain.
But Cadbury is sticking to its cautious dividend policy, raising the year's pay-out by four per cent to a total of 13.0p for the year, although under-lying earnings per share rose by ten per cent to 33.9p.
The shares gained 14p to 574p, equivalent to 16.9 times the year's earnings, where they yield 2.3 per cent.
Mr Stitzer said: "2005 was an excellent year. We've become the world's largest confectioner, overtaking Mars, which is significant. We've also gained share in 17 out of our 20 confectionery markets."
One eye-catching success was the premium, Italian-made Green & Blacks organic chocolate range bought in May, 2005, whose sales jumped 49 per cent, albeit from a low starting point.
Around 80 per cent of Cadbury's sales and profits last year were generated outside the UK.
Growth in emerging markets included a 32 per cent gain in Russia, 13 per cent in Latin America and 11 per cent in Asia-Pacific.
The US-based Adams brands it bought in late 2003 - including Trident, Halls cough sweets and Bubba bubble gum - are now fully integrated into Cadbury and grew by 11 per cent last year.
Despite the sale of the European beverages and repeated reports that Cadbury would like to find a buyer for its American soft drinks, Mr Stitzer maintained that he is committed to growing its drinks businesses in the Americas and Australia whose sales grew by 6.3 per cent in 2005.
In the US, the success of a new Cherry Vanilla variety in the Dr Pepper range of fizzy drinks, helping drive the share of the US carbonated drinks market to 17 per cent.
Non-core brands sold during the year including the German confectionery business Piasten and an American bakery product, Grandma's Molasses.
Cadbury bought South Africa's leading chewing gum Dan Products and has taken majority control of Cadbury Nigeria.