Unilever chief executive Alan Jope has for the first time offered hope that the maker of Dove soaps and Magnum ice creams will next year escape a period of stagnant sales that has dogged one of the world's largest consumer goods groups.

The 54-year-old Scot, who succeeded Paul Polman in January, faces pressure from shareholders to reverse four years of slowing sales growth as Unilever struggles with challenges ranging from millennials ditching well-established brands to the growing popularity of new trends such as veganism.

In his first interview since taking the top job at the £140 billion ($270.1b) company, Jope