DRINKS giant Diageo has lifted its trading forecasts after strong sales in the US drove a “good start” to the current financial year.

The Johnnie Walker and Guinness owner said it has been buoyed by “robust demand” in the off-trade, which covers supermarkets and retail stores, despite the continuing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ivan Menezes, chief executive of the company, said it has also benefited from the gradual reopening of pubs and bars in most markets, with the pace of its recovery in different regions being driven by the easing of restrictions.

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US trading has been “ahead of our expectations” due to resilient consumer demand and continued growth in spirits sales, it said.

It said an increase in retailer confidence has seen higher stock levels in supermarkets and stores, while bars and restaurants have now reopened in all US states.

Off-trade sales have been robust across Europe, while it has also benefited from the easing of lockdown restrictions on bars, pubs and restaurants.

Diageo said travel retail has been “severely impacted” by the pandemic.