CONSUMER goods giant Unilever said new products and promotions had lifted sales in “challenging” markets.
The group, which includes Dove soap and Knorr among its brands, lifted underlying sales by 3.4% in the three months to September 30 after spending more on advertising and launching products such as a new range of Lipton teas and Surf detergent in the UK.
Chief executive Paul Polman said: “Market conditions remain challenging and in this environment we will continue to increase investment behind our brands.”
Unilever, home of household staples such as Flora spread and Domestos detergent, has also been helped by lower commodity costs this year, easing pricing pressure.
Sales volumes across the group were up 3.6% during the period, much higher than the 1.4% seen for the first nine months as a whole.
Unilever has enjoyed its fastest growth this year in the Americas, Africa and Asia, in contrast to sluggish European markets.
But in Western Europe, there were some signs of recovery as underlying sales volumes rose by 2.6% compared with 0.1% across the first nine months as consumers gradually emerged from the depths of recession seen earlier in the year.
Lower input prices improved the group’s margins, while Unilever has also looked to cut overheads through production and IT efficiencies and supply chain savings.
Keith Bowman, equity analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, said the group was “inching closer” to household products rival Reckitt Benckiser.
He said an emphasis on innovation and sustained advertising spend was driving performance at Unilever – while cost-saving initiatives were providing additional momentum.