Consumer goods giant Unilever saw a “sharp” drop in European food sales in April, despite the group delivering “good” results in 2011, Bernstein analysts have said.

The Anglo-Dutch conglomerate’s food sales in Europe turned “sharply negative” last month with an 8.3% decline after nine straight months of growth, the analysts noted in a report covering its “European Food Group” of stocks, Nestlé Unilever and Danone. Unilever’s volumes fell 10%.

The company’s revenues were dragged down by ice cream, which declined 25.8%. The product group makes up 30% of Unilever’s food sales.

Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood said Unilever’s lower ice cream sales were purely a result of the weather in Europe.

“Sales of ice cream, water and CSDs were all bad. Nestlé suffered the same as Unilever…but ice cream is a smaller percentage of their business,” Wood told just-food. “The simple truth is that weather evens out over time. Unilever had a good Q1…helped by the mild winter.”

Nestlé’s sales in Europe also decelerated to flat in April after 20 straight months of positive growth, the analysts noted. Volumes fell 1.7%.

Danone’s European sales were also negative for a fourth straight month following six months of positive growth. Sales sank 5%. Over the last 12 months, Danone’s sales in Europe have dipped by an average of 0.8%, the analysts noted. Volumes fell 5.5% for the month, but slightly improved against the three prior month, they added.

Bernstein’s data covers the top five markets in Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.