THE HAGUE: Dutch food and cosmetics giant Unilever on Thursday posted a rise in sales for the first half of 2016 boosted by men’s’ grooming products but warned of “no sign of an improving global economy.”

Total sales clocked in 2.6 per cent higher at €26.3 billion ($29 billion) and net profit stood at €2.7 billion, up by 2 per cent from 2015.

Unilever said the first half of the year was marked by “a period of high volatility and accelerating change”.

“Despite a challenging environment with slower global economic growth and intensifying geopolitical instability, we have again grown profitability in our markets,” Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said in a statement.

Unilever fared particularly well in its personal care division with deodorants and dry sprays, it said.

The Rotterdam-based retail giant said it was “addressing the higher growth male grooming segment with the launch of a new Axe range, opening the brand to a broader audience”.

An analyst told AFP this week Unilever is focusing on personal health care products, evident also in its announcement Wednesday that it has bought California-based start up the Dollar Shave Club in a deal believed to be worth around $1 billion.

Sales in North America were driven by “a strong delivery in our innovations in deodorants, dressings and ice cream,” said Unilever, which makes Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s and Cornetto.

Growth was driven by “solid volume gains in Asia”, while Russia and Australia returned to positive growth and Turkey grew strongly led by ice cream and tea.

China however remained “broadly flat with rapid growth in e-commerce offset by declines in other channels,” Unilever said.

Sales in Europe also continued to remain flat. Despite growth in personal care, home care and ice cream “the contraction in the margarine market impacted our foods performance, particularly in the United Kingdom and France,” it said.

Unilever chief Polman said the group’s priorities continued to be “volume-driven growth ahead of our markets, steady improvement in core operating margin and strong cash flow.”

But Polman warned: “We have been preparing ourselves for tougher market conditions in 2016 and do not see any signs of an improving global economy.”

Unilever was founded in 1930 and has grown into a massive conglomerate, employing some 173,000 people around the world. It sells consumer goods ranging from Knorr soups, Bertolli olive oil and Rexona deodorant to Domestos toilet blocks.