Danone today (16 April) reported first-quarter sales that came in ahead of analyst expectations and pointed to higher demand for its baby food in emerging markets.

The French food giant said its like-for-like sales were up 5.6% in the first three months of 2013. The consensus estimate among analysts was for growth of 4.2%. On a reported basis, turnover grew 4.3% to EUR5.34bn

Like-for-like baby food sales drove the performance, climbing 17.1%. Danone cited “booming” sales in Asia-Pacific, helped by a later Chinese New Year. It also noted “surging growth” in Europe where consumers in emerging markets in the region sought international brands.

However, Danone’s largest division, dairy, remained under pressure. Like-for-like sales grew but only by 0.7%. Sales in Danone’s emerging dairy markets, which include North America, were up but it said conditions in Europe were still “difficult”.

Danone has shaken up its management structure in Europe to be more responsive to demand after a year of falling sales and margins.

Shares in Danone were up 3.84% at EUR56.55 at 09:00 CET this morning.

For further analysis of Danone’s first-quarter numbers, click here