Growth in emerging markets was 11.9 per cent whilst developed markets grew 4.2 per cent in Q1, although the consumer products firm pointed out that overall underlying sales growth across the first half of 2012 will give a better reflection of the underlying progress of the business than the first three months.
"We have made a good start to the year which underlines the progress that we have made in transforming Unilever into a sustainable growth company,” commented CEO Paul Polman.
“Emerging markets, now 56 per cent of the business, have again delivered strong growth and whilst the good performance in developed markets was against a weak prior year comparator, our performance is pleasing given struggling economies, continued fragile consumer confidence and competitor activity.”
The acquisition of Concern Kalina has opened up the Russian market for the Anglo-Dutch giant, whilst the newly acquired Alberto Culver brands are performing well, as the acquisitions net of disposals has already contributed 2.7 per cent to turnover.
In skin cleansing the company grew ahead of its markets with Dove reflecting the continuing success of Dove Nutrium Moisture shower gels and the roll-out of Dove Men+Care.
The Radox range performed well in the UK, helped by the success of the men's range, whilst the launch of Simple in the US and a strong performance from Fair & Lovely helped drive growth in face care despite a slow start from Pond's new Age Miracle and Flawless White ranges.
As ever, the Vaseline brand performed well, continuing to benefit from the Essential Moisture hand & body range which is now in 14 markets.
Dove once again contributed to growth, this time in hair care as its Damage Therapy and styling range performed well in the US.
The brand’s hatrick was complete as double digit growth was posted in the deodorants sector helped by activities in the emerging markets in both men’s and women’s products.
Having seen a positive start to the year, Polman remained optimistic about the company’s outlook for 2012, but hinted that it will be the second half of the year when the company really push on.
“Our long term priorities remain unchanged - profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable core operating margin improvement and strong cash flow,” he said.
“For 2012, we remain on track to deliver a modest improvement in full year core operating margin, weighted towards the second half of the year."