ZURICH, April 20 (Reuters) - Food group Nestle confirmed it aims to grow underlying sales by 2-4 percent this year after growth slowed in the first quarter, hit by weak consumer demand for packaged foods and a deflationary environment.
Underlying "organic" sales growth at the maker of Buitoni pasta and Maggi soups slowed to 2.3 percent in the first quarter, from 3.9 percent in the year-ago period that included one more trading day and an earlier Easter, the group based in Vevey on Lake Geneva said in a statement on Thursday.
This was in line with forecasts in a Reuters poll.
Consumer goods groups face challenges as increasingly health-conscious consumers often prefer fresh produce to packaged foods, pushing the world's biggest food group to make its products healthier by cutting back on sugar, salt and fat and build up the business of foods with health benefits. (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz)