NESTLE expects another challenging year, preventing it again from delivering on its long-term targets, after price erosion in Europe and slower emerging market demand made sales growth slow to 4.6 per cent in 2013.

"Last year was challenging and 2014 will likely be the same," the world's biggest food group said in a statement.

"We therefore expect our 2014 performance to be similar to last year and again weighted to the second half, outperforming the market, with growth around 5 percent and improvements in margins," the group said.

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Last summer, the maker of KitKat chocolate bars  which has a factory in York, lowered its 2013 guidance to "around 5 per cent organic sales growth, which strips out currencies and acquisitions, abandoning its long-term target of 5 to 6 per cent growth.

Net profit fell to £6.7bn, short of a £7.1bn forecast in a Reuters poll. Nestle said the lower profit was due to the costs of portfolio restructuring and the currency impact.

"The macro environment in 2013 was one of soft growth, minimal in the developed world and below recent levels in the emerging markets," chief executive Paul Bulcke said. "Last year was challenging and 2014 will likely be the same."

He said this year would likely again see improvement "weighted to the second half".

Nestlé, like other food companies, is facing slowing demand in emerging markets and in Europe, where many customers are adjusting to government austerity measures.