US: Coca-Cola has reported first-quarter sales ahead of market expectations thanks to strong emerging market growth and resilient figures from struggling European markets. Overall volumes increased by 5% with all regions in growth. Asia-Pacific led the way, boosted by 20% volume growth in India. Europe was the weakest-performing region with 1% growth. Nevertheless, there were some surprising positives in weak markets - sales grew 5% in Italy and 3% in Spain.
France: An exceptional quarter for bottled water sales has helped Danone make a better than expected start to 2012. The owner of the Volvic and Evian brands reported a 6.9% increase in like-for-likes to €5.12bn for the first quarter as it posted a 16.4% jump in water sales. The sales performance was also boosted by a recovery in Russian and US dairy sales, which helped offset weakness in Europe. “Overall, Q1 was a good start for Danone: like-for-like growth was well ahead of expectations,” said Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood.
Holland: Heineken has shrugged off a drop in beer consumption in Western Europe to report a 4.7% increase in like-for-like beer volumes in the first quarter. The Dutch brewer benefited from strong growth figures from Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America. However, like-for-like earnings before interest and tax fell slightly after Heineken came under pressure from higher raw material costs. The company reiterated its forecast that input costs would increase 6% this year, mainly as a result of higher malted barley prices.
US: Greencore Group has snapped up US food-to-go business Marketfare Foods for $36m (£22.6m). Marketfare has supplied 7-Eleven for more than 20 years and its sandwiches are sold in more than 1,100 stores across the US. The company also makes sauces for 7-Eleven in the US and Canada. Last year, it notched up profits of $5.7m (£3.6m) from total sales of $65m (£40.9m). Greencore CEO Patrick Coveney said the purchase built on the successful acquisition of On a Roll in December 2010.
Switzerland: Nestlé is reportedly poised to buy the infant nutrition business of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in a deal worth at least $9bn (£5.64bn). The Swiss food giant is in a position to secure a deal by the end of the month, having fought off a rival bid backed by Danone, according to the Wall Street Journal. Pfizer’s formula milk business generates sales of more than $2bn a year, mostly from emerging markets. A deal would significantly strengthen Nestlé’s position in China, analysts said. “This deal makes huge strategic sense for Nestlé,” said Bernstein’s Andrew Wood. “It is in the right categories and the right markets.”