Ben & Jerry's boosts Unilever as it reports first-quarter growth

LONDON - Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Hellmann's Mayonnaise helped Unilever in the UK and North America, as the consumer goods giant revealed 2% revenues growth in its first-quarter results.

The boost in revenues came as a surprise following last month's warning that revenues might be down by between 1% and 2%.

Pre-tax profits were also healthily up, rising 62% to £593m on turnover that was down slightly, falling 1% to £7.9bn.

Among other brands performing well were Dove soap and shampoo, which did well for Unilever in Japan, North America and Mexico, while in Europe sales of Dove surged by 60%.

The strong performance will be seen as vindication of Unilever's strategy of disposing of non-core brands. The group has implemented a growth strategy that has involved streamlining its portfolio down to 400 brands.

Unilever also said it expected its leading brands to generate 90% of sales by the year end, up from 84% currently.

In a statement, the company said: "We have made a sound start to the year. Continuing expansion in underlying operating margin reflects our determination to grow our business profitably."

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