Food and personal care manufacturer Unilever has reported a 20% decrease in third-quarter pre-tax profit to 30 September of E1.128bn, on sales up 2% at E10.122bn.

Profit was affected by the group's recovery plan 'One Unilever', where it is aiming to merge its food, ice cream and frozen foods, and household and personal care businesses, as well as heavy spending on its brands, which include Knorr soups and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

However, for the nine months to 30 September, the group said that pre-tax profit rose 2% E3.789bn, on sales up 3% at E29,915bn.

Europe recorded strong growth during the quarter. The UK returned to growth, while France and Germany “also performed better”, Unilever said.

Underlying sales in Europe grew 1.4% in the first nine months of the year and by 3.5% in the third-quarter.

Patrick Cescau, group chief executive of Unilever, said: “I am pleased with the sustained improvement in the top line, maintaining the momentum of the first half.”

He added: “Looking ahead, our priority is to improve our operating margin, while delivering our growth ambitions.”