ZURICH (Reuters) – Food group Nestle confirmed it wants to grow sales by around 3 percent this year after it reported on Thursday improved trading in North America and infant nutrition had pushed up underlying sales in the third quarter.
Packaged food companies are struggling to adjust to consumers’ growing appetite for fresh, local foods, and Nestle and its peers are trying to boost performance by cutting costs, shedding underperformers and diversifying into premium and health foods.
“We are starting to see improved momentum in North America and in our infant nutrition category globally. Our business in China continued to grow at a mid single-digit pace,” Chief Executive Mark Schneider said in a statement on Thursday.
Nestle’s organic sales, which strip out currency swings and acquisitions, rose 2.9 percent in the third quarter, in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll. They were up 2.8 percent in the first nine months.
The maker of KitKat chocolate bars and Nescafe instant coffee also announced that Wan Ling Martello, currently head of the company’s zone Asia Oceania Sub-Saharan Africa (AOA), was leaving the company and would be replaced by Chris Johnson, currently head of group human resources & business services, on Jan. 1.
Martello, who was chief financial officer before taking over zone AOA, was among the potential candidates to take over the CEO role at Nestle before company outsider Mark Schneider was appointed two years ago.
Peer Danone said on Wednesday that slacker demand for baby food in China and a consumer boycott in Morocco slowed third-quarter sales growth.
Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Maria Sheahan and John Revill