Sales rose by 5.6 percent to 21.4 billion francs ($23.4 billion) between January and March, the owner of brands such as Kit Kat and Haagen Dazs said.
Chief executive Paul Bulcke said in a statement that 2012 was shaping up to be the "challenging year" the food giant had anticipated.
"In many developed markets where consumer confidence is low, the trading environment is subdued whilst in most emerging markets, conditions remain dynamic and rich in growth opportunities," said Bulcke.
The company confirmed its full-year sales forecast of five to six percent growth.
In the first three months of the year business grew by 13 percent in emerging markets compared with 3.1 percent in developed markets.
There was weak demand for frozen food products in North America, but pet food sales were strong there.
Stocks and seasonings brand Maggi sold strongly in Africa as did Nescafe products in China, Nestle said, while KitKat performed well in Japan.
"The good growth in the first quarter together with the pricing effect for the rest of the year and a likely improved raw material environment in the second half, allows us to confirm our full-year outlook of delivering 5-6 percent organic growth together with an improvement in the year-end margin and underlying earnings per share in constant currencies," Nestle said.
The company last year posted a 9.5-billion-Swiss-franc profit, up 8.1 percent from 2010.
At its annual general meeting on Thursday shareholders elected chairman and chief executive of the AXA Group Henri de Castries to its board for a three-year term.