Nestle CEO designate confirms growth target

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ZURICH, Sept 21 (Reuters) Nestle's designated new Chief Executive Paul Bulcke said on Friday that the world's largest food company's current underlying sales growth target of 5 to 6 percent each year was ''not a bad thing.'' ''I feel 5, 6 percent is not a bad thing to have, we have prices going up and all that, we have to see,'' Bulcke said on a conference call. ''I would confirm this model over time... where we can do more we will do more.'' Bulcke, currently head of Nestle's Americas operations, was a surprise choice as new CEO and Thursday's decision confounded wide expectations the company would name Chief Financial Officer Paul Polman to replace current Chief Executive Peter Brabeck.

Bulcke, who takes over next April, added his most important priority was to deliver the Nestle model of growing annual underlying sales 5-6 percent, see a sustained profit margin improvement and a good return on invested capital.

Nestle shares had fallen on Thursday after the surprise decision.

Bulcke faces the task of continuing Nestle's evolution from a mass distributor of commodity based foods like milk and breakfast cereal into a nutrition and fitness firm focused on sparkling waters, performance foods and healthy lifestyles.

Under Brabeck, Nestle was quick to seize on healthy trends that favoured diet and sport foods, customised hospital nutrition and mineral water, as opposed to candy, chips and sweetened drinks.

REUTERS KR SSC1245

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