Meanwhile European sales dropped by 0.6 per cent, put down to eurozone deflation and the price cutting war brought on by the rise of the discounters.
Over all turnover declined by two per cent to €12.5bn (£10bn), which was brought down by 7.1 per cent by negative currency movements. Overall, underlying sales rose 4.7 per cent in the first quarter.
Despite vague warnings over market volatility Unilever promised the City there was no material change to its financial position from its full year results in January.
Unilever did however hike its quarterly dividend raised six per cent to €0.3201 per share.
Paul Polman, chief executive, said:
With markets remaining volatile, we continue to focus on driving agility and resilience in our business through the key programmes which we set out at the end of last year: net revenue management, zero based budgeting and the next stage in our continued organisational transformation.
"We expected tougher markets and we're finding tougher markets," Unilever chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly told Reuters.
Shares in the company were up by half a per cent by mid afternoon trading.
Unilever warned that sales of its spreads were slipping, dragged down by falling demand for margarines in Germany and France.