Growth is slowing in emerging markets, as macro-economic headwinds influence consumer behaviour. Within this overall trend we see a mixed picture across the major countries reflecting different local circumstances. Developed markets remain sluggish with little sign of any recovery in North America or Europe.
[Europe] delivered volume growth ahead of our markets in the quarter. We continued to see that highly price-conscious consumers are reluctant to spend unless products offer good value for money. Trading in the southern countries remains depressed but we saw improving growth in Central Europe.
The firm saw pre-tax profits rise from £3,197m in the same period last year to £3,659m, a rise of 14 per cent at current rates. The biggest risers were home care and personal care, with underlying sales growth up 10.2 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively.
Overall underlying sales growth of five per cent is slightly below what analysts had expected.
Paul Polman, chief executive officer, commented on the results:
This set of results clearly demonstrates that the transformation of Unilever to a sustainable growth company is fully on track. The strong Home Care and Personal Care performance is particularly pleasing given increased competitive pressure.
The underlying performance of our Foods and Refreshment categories is starting to improve, with strong growth from the relaunched Lipton Yellow Label and the continuing success of Knorr jelly bouillons and baking bags. Innovation remains the key driver of growth with examples such as compressed deodorants, Vaseline Spray & Go and Magnum 5 kisses.