Unilever has warned that its leading brands will grow by less than 3% this year almost halving its previous forecast.

The Anglo-Dutch group whose brands include Wall’s ice cream, Marmite, Dove soap and Hellmann's mayonnaise, said third quarter sales from categories such as its spreads, savoury and dressings and frozen foods and had been sluggish.

Sales of its dieting products SlimFast have crashed 23.5% in the face of competition from the Atkins diet.

While sales of its fragrances such as Calvin Klein and Eternity fell 25.8%.

Total sales at the group were up 3.2% with food up 1.8%, household ahead 5.1% and personal care up 6.9%.

Unilever has spent the last five years restructuring by whittling down 1,600 brands to concentrate on its top 400.