VEVEY, Switzerland: Nestlé's total sales rose by 3.4% to SwF81.4bn ($70.2bn; €55.9bn; £45.3bn) in the first nine months of 2008, prompting the world's biggest food company to raise its organic growth forecast to 8% for the year as a whole.

The company's food, beverage and pharmaceutical divisions all performed strongly, with milk products, ice cream, powdered and liquid beverages all posting double-digit improvements.

The largest sales uplifts came in Africa, Asia and Oceania, but Europe and the Americas also posted improvements, the company reports.

According to ceo Paul Bulcke, Nestlé's global reach and diverse portfolio should help protect it against the worst impacts of the economic downturn.

In aeronautic philosophical mode he opines: “We are entering a phase of price stability. You may have headwinds, you may have tailwinds. You have to make sure your engine is strong enough.”

One area that saw a drop off, however, was bottled water, which posted particularly poor sales in Europe, and saw total income fall 3.2% to SFr7.6bn during the first three quarters of 2008. 

Nestlé's future strategic aims include identifying market niches – such as providing low-cost products to the developing world – expanding its premium ranges, and using marketing to address European environmental concerns about bottled water.

Bulcke also ruled out making any big purchases, arguing: "I give priority to growing what we have in our hands. I really want to focus on inspiring the brands that we have."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff