UNIVERSAL Robina Corp. (URC) is tracking a high single-digit topline growth for 2019, as the company banks on the recovery of its coffee business alongside the expansion of its other food and agro-industrial businesses.

The Gokongwei-led food and beverage company said on Tuesday it is looking at a 7-9% increase in sales this year, as its instant coffee business shows “very strong growth momentum.”

URC President and Chief Executive Officer Irwin C. Lee said the company launched three new instant coffee products last January to address gaps in the market, following an assessment of why the segment underperformed in previous years.

“We launched (Great Taste) White Caramel and White Crema to satisfy needs of people discovering different taste profiles…. Early results are working, we are beginning to gain back market share,” Mr. Lee told reporters after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Pasig City yesterday.

Mr. Lee said market share for the coffee business dropped to about 20% last year, but has now started to improve to the mid-20s level.

While the coffee business is leading growth for URC this year, Mr. Lee noted that other food items such as chips, bakery products, chocolates, and noodles are also delivering solid performances.

URC’s brands include Jack N’ Jill, Nissin Cup Noodles, C2, Blend 45, Great Taste, Vitasoy, and Calbee, among others.

Mr. Lee also said the company targets to hold profit margins for the year, which could mean healthy bottom-line growth as well.

“Bottom line is looking good. Our commitment is to hold margins, and by holding margins that means whatever is the topline growth, that will also be the bottom-line growth. But the first quarter has shown that we can do better than that…But I also want to reinvest in the business. If we are making good profits, we will make sure of that,” Mr. Lee explained.

URC earlier said it has allotted P9.1 billion in capital expenditures to expand its business this year. Bulk of the budget will be used for capacity expansion.

So far, the company has already started the P1-billion expansion of its Davao flour mill to 900 tons from the current 300 tons. It is also expanding its sugar mill in Negros Occidental to 14,000 tons from 9,000 tons.

Mr. Lee said URC is also building additional lines for its consumer goods business, after running out of capacity for certain branded snacks such as Piattos and Nova.

URC’s net income attributable to the parent grew three percent to P3.04 billion in the first quarter of 2019, following a seven percent increase in net sales to P33.3 billion.

Shares in URC jumped 2.58% or P4 to close at P159 each at the stock exchange on Wednesday. — Arra B. Francia