Unilever said the theme of vitality had run clearly through its innovation programme during the period.
Some of the best examples, it said, included the launch of AdeZ soya fruit drinks in the UK market after success in Latin America, and Vie 'one shot' fruit and vegetable drinks, now available in 10 countries.
These drinks helped the group to recover ground in the key UK market, and in Western Europe more generally.
"We continue to see good progress with another quarter of broad-based growth. Stronger innovation and additional investment behind our priorities are driving the growth of our brands," said Patrick Cescau, group chief executive of Unilever.
Underlying sales growth of 4.8 per cent in the third quarter and 3.9 per cent in the first nine months were, however, offset against heavy spending on advertising and through recovery plan 'One Unilever', which is attempting to streamline its frozen foods, ice creams and food lines.
Input cost increases, competitive pricing, higher net costs for restructuring and disposals, and higher investment in branding also hit profit margins.
European markets improved with sales growth of 3.5 per cent in the quarter. One key driver, in addition to vitality drinks, was ice cream, which increased sales by 1.4 per cent, making up for lower ice-cream sales at the beginning of the year.
Other regions continued to perform better than Europe, however. In the Americas growth accelerated progressively throughout the year to 4.1 per cent in the third quarter. In Asia and Africa underlying sales grew by 8 per cent in the first nine months and 7.5 per cent in the third quarter.