AMSTERDAM -- Unilever ( UL), owner of the Dove, Lipton, and Ben & Jerry's brands, Thursday reported a rise of 10% in first-half earnings, as the company successfully passed on higher raw materials costs to customers.

Net profit was €2.235 billion ($3.12 billion), from €2.035 billion in the same period a year earlier. Sales rose 4.1% to €22.1 billion.

Unilever didn't present full numbers for the second quarter, but said "underlying" sales growth -- a nonstandard measure that strips out the impact of acquisitions and disposals -- was 7.1% in the quarter, better than analysts had expected. Prices contributed the bulk of the rise, though volumes were up in Asia, the group's largest area by sales, and in Europe, its most profitable.

In the Americas, sales growth in the quarter was due entirely to price hikes, though margins improved as the company spent less on advertising.

"Volumes were robust and in line with the market, despite having taken price increases," said CEO Paul Polman in a statement. "Market conditions remain sluggish in the developed economies but emerging markets continue to deliver strong growth," Unilever said.

The company's personal care products, led by Dove soap and Axe deodorants, was its strongest performer in the first half, with sales up 5.5% and margins up 1.4%.

Ice cream and beverage sales were up 6.4% on strong weather and a late Easter, though margins declined 1.4% as Unilever rolled out the Magnum brand in the U.S. and the disasters in Japan hurt tea sales.

Dressings and spreads such as Hellmann's mayonnaise and Knorr bouillon grew sales by 5%, and margins improved 0.8%.

Margins were down 3.3% at the company's home products division, due to price competition in Asian markets, though sales grew 6.7%. The division makes detergents and laundry products such as Cif, Omo, Sunlight and Surf.

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