Nestle , the world's biggest food group, reported a 3.8 percent rise in first-quarter organic sales, in line with analyst forecasts, and reiterated its outlook for 2009 despite the slowdown.

Nestle said sales slipped 2.1 percent to 25.2 billion Swiss francs ($21.54 billion) from 25.7 billion a year ago, but organic growth, which strips out currency effects and acquisitions, was 3.8 percent.

A Reuters poll of 11 analysts had forecast on average sales rising 1.2 percent to 26 billion Swiss francs and a 3.7 percent rise in underlying or organic sales,

Despite the global slowdown, Nestle reiterated its forecast for 2009 sales growth of at least approaching 5 percent compared to its long-term target of 5-6 percent. Nestle beat forecasts with 2008 underlying sales growth of 8.3 percent.

Analysts have said the maker of Nescafe coffee, KitKat chocolate bars and Maggi soup was well positioned to ride out the recession compared to its rivals due to its range of products and wide geographical presence.

French food group Danone stuck to its 2009 earnings growth targets earlier this month after demand for its baby food and medical nutrition products helped lift first-quarter like-for-like sales by 1 percent.

Shares in Nestle are trading at about 12 times 2010 earnings, at a slight discount to Cadbury on 12.5 but at a premium to about 11.4 for Danone and 10.3 for Anglo-Dutch Unilever Plc/NV .

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson)