Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday as consumers drank up its value-priced soft drinks, and the company raised its 2009 profit forecast, sending its shares up 5.9 percent in premarket trade.

The maker of A&W, 7UP and Canada Dry beverages said first-quarter net income rose to $132 million, or 52 cents a share, from $95 million, or 38 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items such as gains from the termination of a distribution deal with Hansen Natural Corp , the company earned 37 cents a share. This compares with analysts' average forecast of 29 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Net sales fell about 3 percent to $1.26 billion.

Dr Pepper, which was separated last year from British confectionary company Cadbury Plc , is the third-largest soft drink maker in the United States. It has gained share in the key U.S. market and is seeking to gain more through increased marketing and expanded distribution.

For example, the company is rolling out more vending machines and coolers and is touting the value of its Hawaiian Punch in the weak economy.

For the full year 2009, Dr Pepper said it expects earnings of $1.70 to $1.78 a share, up from a prior forecast of $1.59 to $1.67. The company stood by its forecast for 2009 sales to fall 2 percent to 4 percent.

Dr Pepper shares were at $22.51 in very light trading before the market opened. They closed at $21.26 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange, up about 80 percent from an all-time low of $11.83 touched in early March.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and John Wallace)