Coca-Cola Co. chief executive Neville Isdell said yesterday (19 April) that the US drinks giant was "on-track" in turning around the business after posting a slight increase in first-quarter sales and earnings.

Coke posted first-quarter net income of US$1.11bn, up from US$1bn last year. Revenues rose slightly to US$5.23bn, an increase from the US$5.21bn reported in the first three months of 2005.

"We are on track to deliver our objectives," Isdell said during a conference call today. Case volumes rose by 5% on a global basis, led by "strong growth" in key emerging markets including China, Russia and Turkey.

"Strong growth in our Latin America group and our other emerging markets, along with another solid quarter in North America, is helping to drive our business," Isdell said.

He added that he had "confidence" that a range of new products and marketing initiatives recently launched by Coke would drive sales growth in the months ahead.

"Since the end of 2005, we have introduced significant new products, including Coca-Cola Blak in France and the US, Coca-Cola Zero in Australia and Tab Energy, Vault, Dasani Sensations, and Simply Lemonade in the US. In North America, we launched the first fully integrated, cross-media campaign for Brand Coke in our company's history, 'The Coke Side of Life', supported by an increased level of marketing investment."

Isdell added: "These strong introductions, combined with the equally strong pipeline of innovation in both our carbonated and noncarbonated beverage brands, give me confidence that we will achieve our business objectives and, in doing so, create sustained growth and value for the benefit of our shareowners and other stakeholders."

Sales and earnings, however, slumped in Europe due to falling volumes in Germany and the transfer of canning rights to Coke's bottlers in Spain.