Swiss food giant Nestlé has reported a 5.4% rise in underlying organic sales for the first nine months of 2003, helped by increased demand for bottled water and ice cream during Europe's summer heat wave.

Total sales, however, fell 2.4% to CHF64.6bn (US$49.2bn), due to the negative currency effect of the strong Swiss franc, reported Reuters.

The company is targeting 5-6% organic growth, which strips out currency effects and acquisitions, for the full-years 2003 and 2004.

"The outlook for 2004 is marked by my prudent confidence without exuberance," chief executive Peter Brabeck was quoted by Reuters as saying. "Overall we expect volume growth to be somewhat higher in 2004 for Nestlé."