(Bloomberg) -- Nestle SA said the total amount of food and drink sold globally has been falling since the start of the year, highlighting the challenge for the sector.

“People are consuming less, or they’re eating less or they’re wasting less or they’re eating more out of home,” outgoing Chief Financial Officer Francois-Xavier Roger said during a Bernstein conference Thursday. “It’s difficult to know. I don’t think it will last.”  

Large consumer goods companies have grown sales through sharp price rises in recent quarters, and many have suffered declines in volumes. Nestle hasn’t raised prices much since the start of April, Roger said.

US consumers have been resilient, but the end of Covid-era subsidies and savings is starting to impact consumption, the CFO said. Nestle’s China business hasn’t recovered as quickly as the company had expected. A Nestle spokesman said these comments refer to the first half of the year.

Roger said Nestle is more optimistic about Europe, having been worried about that market’s access to energy last winter.

Nestle shares fell as much as 1.2% Thursday. They have dropped about 4% this year.

The Swiss company makes food ranging from KitKats to Maggi stock cubes and has been reshaping its food portfolio as it’s still optimistic that consumers will want to eat healthier products. Nestle announced a target on Thursday to boost sales of its more nutritious products by as much as 25 billion Swiss francs ($27 billion) by 2030. That would be about 50% more than the 2022 level.  

Read more: Nestle Gets a Third of Sales From Foods Considered Unhealthy

Roger, 61, who will be replaced by Anna Manz, the finance boss of the London Stock Exchange Group, is confident he is leaving Nestle in good shape as he takes his next “exciting” step in his career, which is yet to be disclosed.

He said Nestle continues to look at deals but most of those the company is assessing aren’t “must-haves.” The food maker could make small acquisitions that would boost earnings growth, he said. 

Nestle will probably revisit its share buyback program next year, the CFO also said. The company can finance paying 7 billion francs in dividends and 3 billion francs on repurchasing shares each year, he added. A spokesman said that the dividends could exceed that amount.

Asked about Nestle’s stake in L’Oreal SA, Roger said keeping the holding just above 20% allows the food company to include the French cosmetic maker’s earnings in its figures and that going below that threshold would hit earnings per share.



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