Consumer goods giant Unilever beat forecasts with a 3.6% rise in third-quarter underlying volume sales and said it was on track to restore volume growth for the year, without sacrificing margins or cash flow.

The quarterly volume rise from the maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Knorr soup and Dove soap beat the consensus forecast for a 2.8% rise. Quarterly underlying sales rose 3.4% compared with forecasts for a rise of 3%.

Anglo-Dutch Unilever, the world's third-biggest food and consumer goods group, said all regions and categories showed growth.

'We are on track towards our objective of restoring volume growth while protecting margins and cash flow for the year,' chief executive Paul Polman said in a statement.

The group, whose 400 brands include Hellmann's mayonnaise and Sunsilk shampoo, posted underlying quarterly earnings of €0.43 a share, beating a consensus forecast of €0.38. The half-year dividend was set at €0.2695 a share.

Polman, who took over in January, having previously worked at rivals Nestle and Procter and Gamble, is targeting volume growth after relying on price rises for its sales rise in the first quarter.

Unilever's volume rise beat the 2% seen at the world's largest food group Nestle in its third quarter, while France's Danone saw a big 7.1% leap in its sales volumes due largely to big cuts in its yoghurt prices.