Unilever has revealed a 10% increase in first-quarter pre-tax profit to E1,310m, on sales up 9% at E9,535m.

However, the group also revealed lower than expected underlying sales of 2.9%.

It added that although overall world consumer demand was robust, Western Europe remained “sluggish”.

It also said that it was starting to see a renewed increase in some commodity prices.

In Europe, Unilever said that underlying sales had declined by 0.5%. Volumes were slightly ahead, but prices had decreased by 0.6%.

In the UK, it said that sales had remained in line with last year.

Patrick Cescau, group chief executive of Unilever, said: “Our priorities for 2006 are to sustain top-line growth and improve margins. With the first-quarter performance we are on track to achieve these objectives and our aggregate market share remains broadly stable since the start of last year.”

He added: “The move to one Unilever organisation around the world is progressing well and increasingly contributing to faster decision making, better execution and an impressive overall delivery of cost reductions.”