Unilever has warned its underlying sales will come below its previous expectations in the third quarter of the year amid the slowdown in emerging markets.

In a surprise trading update issued late yesterday afternoon (30 September), Unilever said it had seen a “weakening in the market growth of many emerging countries” in the third quarter. The Anglo-Dutch food giant said it now expects underlying sales growth of 3-3.5% in the quarter.

A spokesperson for Unilever said it had not previously issued guidance on sales growth for the quarter.

The consensus forecast among analysts was for growth of 5.5-6%, Sanford Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood said in a note to investors today.

Unilever said the emerging market slowdown has accelerated as a result of “significant currency weakening”. Developed markets remain flat to down, it said.

“We continue to grow ahead of our markets and expect underlying sales growth to improve in quarter four,” said CEO Paul Polman. “For 2013 we are still on course to deliver against our priorities of profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable core operating margin improvement and strong cash flow.”

For just-food’s management briefing on the FMCG sector in Russia and the recent slowdown in the country’s economy, click here.

For our briefing on Brazil’s consumer goods industry and how FMCG firms are navigating the slowdown there, click here.