Unilever said first quarter turnover fell 2.2% and that it was “not happy” with just a 1.3% rise in sales of its 400 top brands and stressed that action would be taken.

The Anglo-Dutch group with brands such as Knorr soups, Hellmann's mayonnaise, Dove soap and Wall’s ice cream, posted an 8% drop in pre-tax profit to 931m euros. Turnover fell to 9.8bn euros.

Sales in Europe declined 4.7%, were 4.1% lower in North America and 3.2% down in Africa and the Middle East. Latin America fared best, with sales up 8.6%.