Consumer goods giant Unilever has posted a 2.8% rise in underlying quarterly sales for its first quarter of trading, after it managed to increase prices in emerging markets and benefitted from a weaker euro.
The group, which owns the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream brand, said its European markets remain weak, while in North America the modest price-driven pickup has been sustained.
Emerging markets have seen varying trends, including some improvement in India, more stable conditions in China, but a weakening in Brazil and Russia.
“We’ve had a good start to the year, helped by favourable currency movements but also an improvement in underlying sales. This is despite a continued challenging trading environment in many parts of the world,” said Unilever Chief Exec, Paul Polman.
“The actions we have been taking to put us on track for higher levels of growth are starting to pay off. We have further strengthened the innovation pipeline, and are increasing investment behind the core of our brands, as well as extending into premium segments and new markets. We continuously strengthen our go-to-market capabilities and sharpen our execution,” he continued.
He added: “Despite high levels of currency and commodity volatility, we are now starting to see more tailwinds than headwinds in our markets, and expect our initiatives to deliver a further improvement in volume growth in the remainder of the year. We remain focussed on competitive, profitable, consistent and responsible growth. Our priorities continue to be volume growth ahead of our markets, steady improvement in core operating margin and strong cash flow.
This is our model for long-term value creation, as evidenced by today’s consistent dividend increase.”
The latest results could help take off some of the investor pressure Unilever has felt of late, as a result of stagnant sales – the slowest in five years as of last October.