Unilever first-quarter sales top expectations

Unilever first-quarter sales top expectations”

With news that Unilever will sell its spread brands - including Bertolli, Flora, Stork and I Can't Believe it's So Good - the question turns to who will swoop in and take the brands over.

Unilever was more aggressive than Nestlé in raising food prices in the quarter, with a 3.4% increase, led by more expensive versions of Magnum and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Analysts have called the Kraft Heinz bid a "massive wake-up call" for the company. United Kingdom grocer Tesco Plc previous year briefly removed some Unilever items from its online store after a dispute over pricing.

Total sales were 13.3bn euros (£11.1bn), up 6% in part on exchange rate factors.

"The first quarter shows growth once more ahead of our markets", CEO Paul Polman said.

Unilever, which has a factory at Carrow Works, in Bracondale, Norwich, explained sales growth in Africa and Russian Federation "was entirely driven by price as a result of substantial currency devaluations", and that rising prices in Asia came "in response to rising commodity costs".

Mr Lewis' comments come just months after Unilever's stand-off with Tesco over a 10% hike that temporarily left Britain's largest supermarket grappling with a shortage of store cupboard stables including Marmite, Pot Noodle and Persil.

Analysts said Thursday's report pointed to a positive future for Unilever.

"We're starting to see some inflationary pressures in the United Kingdom from the depreciation of the pound", Unilever chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly said, adding that the company's competitors were also raising prices in the country.

Though Clayton feels "trading is still at the sluggish end of the dial", he thinks the group has "enormous potential to steadily boost returns whilst compounding sales over time". "Perhaps that's because there is no need to mention it when sales growth is ticking up so well".

That number was hurt by the impact of currency fluctuation and sale of an ice cream business.

Turnover from Unilever's food business, which takes in brands including Colman's mustard and Becel margarine, stood at EUR3.2bn, which equated to underlying sales that were flat year-on-year.

The firm also said Nescafe pricing was up in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. "We were encouraged by the growth in Asia and the resilience of consumer spending in Europe".

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