Ahold Delhaize beat expectations with a 38% rise in first-quarter core earnings on Thursday as shoppers stockpiled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Underlying operating income rose to €961 million, topping the €878 million expected by analysts polled by the company.
Ahold maintained its 2020 outlook calling for profit margins broadly in line with 2019 and mid-single-digit growth in earnings per share.
Sales rose 14.7% to €18.2 billion, as customers in Europe and the United States increased spending on groceries.
The company said last month it expected sales to rise roughly 15%. It forecast free cash flow of more than 1.5 billion euros in 2020.
"Clearly, our Q1 sales performance across all geographies was impacted by the unprecedented demand and pressures created by the COVID-19 outbreak," CEO Frans Muller said in a statement. "We maintain our full-year outlook, as updated on April 7."
The company said it is accelerating investment, particularly in its online services, to meet demand.
Net online sales, including its Peapod U.S. grocery delivery business and Bol.com non-food store in Europe, rose nearly 39% to €1.3 billion, it said.