Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke has told just-food he believes the world’s largest food manufacturer can boost growth in North America, a market the company admitted has been “challenging” in recent years.

The Swiss food giant this morning (14 February) revealed weak sales growth from its businesses in the Americas in 2012. Nestle said the “real internal growth”, which excludes M&A, price increases and currency movements, in sales in the Americas was 0.6% this year.

The company did not break out figures for North America specifically, a region where depressed consumer sentiment has proven problematic in recent years.

Speaking to just-food on the firm’s earnings call today, CEO Paul Bulcke said he was “never satisfied”, when asked how he viewed Nestle’s performance in North America in the last year.

However, he added: “North America was a very very good platform that has driven and is accretive to the group. On growth it has been softening in some platforms like frozen food … but we have very many pots of growth there and that includes frozen.”

Chris Johnson, executive VP for Nestle’s operations in the US, Canada, Latin America and Caribbean, added North America is “the most important market for Nestle”, but conceded it has been “facing some challenges” over the last few years.

Nonetheless, he added: “We’re optimistic. We had very good results again in the pet care category … and also we are very encouraged about the frozen food business. We are seeing, especially toward end of the year, some good momentum coming ahead driven by some good innovations that came out at the end of last year as well as some good plans coming in this year. North America is and will continue to be an important market for us.”

Nestle said it wanted to improve the perception of its frozen food business, with “improved recipes and nutritional profiles”, a new promotional strategy and communication, while also prioritising the higher-value segments within ice cream.

“The result has been generally improving share trends across our categories,” the company said in its trading update. “Frozen was helped by innovations including DiGiorno Italian Favorites and Lean Cuisine Salad Additions.”