A pack of Nestle Pure Life bottled water is pictured in a showroom at the company headquarters in Vevey February 13, 2014.

Frankfurt - Food company Nestle SA says sales rose 4.2 percent in the first quarter despite deflationary price pressures in Europe.

The Switzerland-based maker of Lean Cuisine, Nespresso and Haagen-Dazs said Tuesday that sales of 20.8 billion Swiss francs were held back by a strong franc and by a flat retail environment in Europe.

Sales there fell 0.8 percent.

Candy sales were reduced by a later Easter, which pushed sales of sweets into the second quarter.

Chief executive Paul Bulcke said that first quarter increase was “driven by volume rather than by price.”

He reaffirmed the company's sales target of 5 percent growth for this year.

Low annual inflation of only 0.5 percent in the 18 countries that use the euro have raised fears the currency union might fall into crippling deflation. - Sapa-AP