Nestle , the world's biggest food group, is aiming for higher underlying sales growth in 2010 after a robust performance in Asia and the Americas helped it beat forecasts for 2009.

The group behind Nescafe instant coffee, Maggi soup, Gerber baby food and Perrier water beat estimates with 4.1 percent growth in underlying sales last year, ahead of rivals Unilever and Danone and beating a poll forecast of 3.9 percent.

Strong demand for chocolate, soluble coffee and pet products drove full-year sales to 108 billion Swiss francs ($100 billion), ahead of the average forecast of 105.9 billion francs, while operating profit of 15.7 billion francs also beat the poll figure of 13.174 billion.

Nestle's 2009 results combined strong top and bottom line performance in a very challenging environment, thereby reconfirming the group's long-term commitment to the Nestle Model, the group said in a statement.

Under the Nestle model, the group aims for 5 to 6 percent underlying growth per year over the long-term.

The group expects its Food and Beverages business to achieve higher underlying growth in 2010 than in 2009 and a further increase in its margin on earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in constant currencies.

Nestle's results and outlook show it is weathering a tough consumer market better than its peers.

Nestle's net profits were 10.4 billion in 2009, compared with 18 billion in 2008, when it gained 9.2 billion francs from selling 25 percent of its stake in eyecare company Alcon to Novartis .

The sale of the remainder of its Alcon holding, a $28 billion deal last month, will be recorded in its 2010 accounts.

Nestle trades at a 2011 price/equity ratio 14.77, compared with 14.33 for Danone, 13.43 for Unilever and 12.46 for Kraft.

($1=1.081 Swiss Franc)

(Editing by Will Waterman)