Copestick Murray expects sales to break through the £70 million barrier in 2018 after reporting strong growth in its latest financial statement.

The I Heart and Mionetto supplier posted turnover of £54.1 million in the 2017 calendar year, an increase of 48% on the previous year.

Volume sales were up 25%, driven by growth in the I Heart brand, which hit £60 million in 2017 (Nielsen) in the UK off-trade and saw exports rise to 15 million bottles.

Over the course of the calendar year, the supplier sold more than 8 million bottles of sparkling wine, a 69% increase on 2016.

That growth has continued throughout 2018 and it forecasts that turnover will reach at least £70 million by the end of the year.

Operating profit in 2017 increased 124% to £1.16 million, but gross margin fell from 8.6% to 7.8% amid stiff competition in the UK market.

Managing director Robin Copestick said: ““2017 was a very good year in nearly every aspect. Our overall gross margins continue to be somewhat disappointing which is a reflection on the competitiveness on the UK market.

“However, I am pleased to report that the introduction of a large number of higher value SKUS in 2018 should see this margin % increase in the future.

“2018 looks set to be another year with exceptional growth and we expect to exceed £70 million in turnover.”

Copestick Murray is owned by German group Henkell, which just purchased Freixenet to form the world’s largest sparkling wine supplier.

“2019 will see us integrate with Freixenet UK and I can only envisage that the merged company will continue this amazing growth curve,” said Copestick.

Staff numbers at Copestick Murray grew by five in 2017 after it purchased Free Run wines, and it also acquired a minority stake in online retailer Slurp.

It said that although it counted Conviviality and Palmer & Harvey among its customers, it experienced no bad debts when they both collapsed.