Unilever, one of the largest consumer products companies in the world, has reported strong margin expansion and an increase in sales momentum throughout its first quarter, which it says underpins confidence in the achievement of full year targets. Earnings per share grew by 100% as sales of the leading brands accelerated through the quarter giving 3% growth, and 4.6% for the last year. Meanwhile operating margin, driven by gross margin improvement, moved ahead strongly by 250 basis points to 14.9%. Operating profit, before exceptional items and amortisation of goodwill and intangibles (of €344m), increased by 18% to €1.825bn (US$1.638bn).