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Jafora-Tabori announced yesterday that its 2004 sales reached NIS 630 million, indicating that the soft drink manufacturer had surpassed rival Tempo.

Jafora-Tabori has generated two years of strong growth, building on 2003 revenues of NIS 540 million and 2002 sales of NIS 528 million. Jafora-Tabori's products include RC Cola, Schweppes, Snapple, Crystal soda and Ein Gedi mineral water.

Tempo, which markets Pepsi, Heineken and Maccabee beers, as well as San Benedetto mineral water, registered only NIS 576 million in sales last year.

Jafora-Tabori was perhaps the company to reduce mineral water prices to a point that caused competitors Neviot and Mei Eden to lose out, and registered high-carbonated drink sales by offering deals such as four bottles for NIS 10. But the company also showed it is possible to make a profit even when its 2-liter Ein Gedi bottles are cheaper than the competition's 1.5 liter bottles.

Jafora's operating profit reached NIS 55 million last year, or an impressive 9 percent of total sales. Net profits were NIS 31 million. Tempo, in contrast, suffered a net loss of NIS 7.4 million last year, after netting NIS 6.2 million in profits in 2003.

Jafora-Tabori owners Roni Gat and Slomo Rodev demonstrated that they could take on major brand names like Coca-Cola and Pepsi utilizing a low-price strategy.

While it is unclear if Tempo's losses are to be blamed on its soft drink division, which generated only NIS 336 million last year, or its alcoholic beverages, it still seems that Jafora-Tabori's aggressive strategy paid off in terms of both higher sales and higher profits.

The company's success doesn't stop in the financial field. Sales statistics show that the company's brands usually maintain a larger market share than Tempo and are placed right behind the Central Bottling Company, Coca-Cola's local producer.

Crystal, Schweppes and RC Cola commanded a 30.9 percent share of the carbonated soft drink market in 2004, according to an AC Nielsen survey of the bar-coded market.

Among non-carbonated soft drinks, Jafora leads thanks to its Spring and Tapuzina lines, commanding a combined 34.9 percent share, with Crystal holding another 8 percent, well ahead of the Central Bottling Company, whose Prigat only takes a 28.3 percent share.

However, the AC Nielsen picture is incomplete. Its survey does not account for the institutional market and consumption in kiosks, which comprise a significant share of sales.

Jafora-Tabori seems very confident in its soft drinks operations. It appears that the company's marketing agreement with Mei Eden will fill Jafora-Tabori coffers even further in 2005.