Unilever this morning (20 April) reported first-quarter organic sales that beat analyst expectations, helped in part by price-driven growth at its ice cream arm amid a flat performance from its food business.

The consumer goods giant booked a 2.9% rise in its underlying sales, a result that beat analyst forecasts for growth of 2%.

Prices supported Unilever’s underlying sales, with the company reporting a 3% rise. Volumes fell, trimming 0.1 percentage point off Unilever’s underlying sales growth.

Turnover from Unilever’s food business, which takes in brands including Colman’s mustard and Becel margarine, stood at EUR3.2bn, which equated to underlying sales that were flat year-on-year. Again, price increases gave a boost to the division, with Unilever reporting a 2.2% increase in prices. Volumes were down 2.1%.

Excluding Unilever’s under-pressure spreads business, which the company is looking to either sell or de-merge, underlying sales from the food division rose 1.7%, with volumes down 1%.

Unilever’s refreshment arm, which takes in ice cream and beverages, posted first-quarter turnover of EUR2.3bn, representing a 5.4% increase in underlying sales. The division did see some volume growth, with Unilever managing to eke out a 0.4% increase.

The company said the growth it saw in ice cream “was helped by strong innovations behind our premium brands”, including the recently-launched Magnum in tubs. Ben & Jerry’s, meanwhile, grew at a “double-digit” rate.

Unilever’s turnover was up 6.1% at EUR13.3bn, including a 2.4 percentage point benefit from exchange rates.

“The first quarter shows growth once more ahead of our markets,” CEO Paul Polman said.

Andrew Wood, an analyst covering Unilever for Sanford Bernstein, described the figures as “a decent set of results”.

Shares in Unilever – already up over 20% this year so far – had risen by 1.02% at 3,977.5p at 08:52 BST.