The hot weather across Europe during the summer helped Nestle report a sales rise of 5.4% in organic sales in the first nine months of the year, as consumers clamoured for the company's bottled water and ice cream products.

However, negative currency impact from the strong Swiss franc cancelled out the gains, and Nestle said top-line group sales fell 2.4% to 64.6 billion Swiss francs, a drop slightly smaller than feared.

The company is targeting 5-6% organic growth, which strips out currency effects and acquisitions, for the full-years 2003 and 2004.

"The outlook for 2004 is marked by my prudent confidence without exuberance," chief executive Peter Brabeck said. "Overall we expect volume growth to be somewhat higher in 2004 for Nestlé."