However, the maker of Nescafe, Perrier, Jenny Craig and Haagen Dazs accompanied its full-year statement with a warning that tough times lie ahead.
The company, based at Vevey in Switzerland, reported on Thursday that its 2011 net profit rose by eight per cent to 9.5 billion Swiss francs ($A9.71 billion) if the disposal of eye-care company Alcon is stripped out of the comparison. The sale last year had boosted Nestle's 2010 profit to 34.2 billion Swiss francs.
Nestle's 7.5 per cent sales growth in its continuing sales during the year was better than expected. Analysts had predicted growth of about seven per cent as the world's biggest food and drink company grappled with volatile markets, rising commodity prices and the strength of the Swiss franc.
Shares in Nestle were up by one per cent to 55 francs at the start of Zurich trading on Thursday.
Overall, though, sales for 2011 fell to 83.6 billion francs from almost 110 billion francs the year before. The decline, largely due to changes in currency rates and the impact of asset disposals, was slightly less than expected as the Swiss National Bank intervened in the markets to try and stem the rise of the franc, helping sales in the last few months of the year.
The company said it expected organic sales growth over the coming year would likely come in lower but still at its company target of between five and six per cent.
"It was a challenging year, and we do not expect 2012 to be any easier," CEO Paul Bulcke said.
However, Bulcke said new partnerships in China and a huge new research centre in the Swiss city of Lausanne had helped Nestle to get off to "a good start" this year.
Nestle said it was continuing to grow in all regions of the world, with five per cent growth in Europe, 6.4 per cent in the Americas and 13.1 per cent in Asia, Oceania and Africa.
With 280,000 employees worldwide and factories or operations in almost every country, Nestle is a major buyer of food commodities such as wheat, sugar, milk and coffee and its results are a good indicator of consumer demand and the health of the global economy as a whole.
Nestle's CFO James Singh said the company had strong sales of almost five billion francs in China while in North America, the company's biggest market, they were "subdued, but positive" with pet-care products and frozen pizza selling well.
Nestle, which reports financial results twice a year, said it was planning a dividend of 1.95 francs per share.
Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich, said the planned dividend and underlying profit were in line with expectations.
Nestle's double-digit growth in emerging markets particularly helped it deliver a "phenomenal" final quarter in 2011, he said, but its strict control of operating expenses and high prices also helped it outpace competitors.
"Nestle had great results from a very good quarter, beating the competition again," he said. "The outlook is relatively positive, given the difficult environment."
Patrik Schwendimann, of Zuercher Kantonalbank, said Nestle deserves a prize for its great results and called it a positive sign that Nestle was helped by Switzerland's currency intervention.
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