On a day when the markets were nervous about record oil prices and what Ben Bernanke and his Federal Reserve companions were mulling over, Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) shares avoided the gloom and were up a dollar on solid third-quarter earnings.

By the numbers
Worldwide sales grew 12% on a unit volume increase of 5.5%, coupled with a 5.5% foreign currency tailwind, and a small 1% increase in prices. Sales gains were in double digits in foreign markets and in the Hills pet food business. North American sales grew just 3%, continuing recent trends. A 12% increase in advertising spending fueled the sales increases.

Colgate-Palmolive's operating profit grew 16%, excluding restructuring charges and benefiting from the gross margin expanding by 80 basis points. Expenses grew slower than sales, leading to a sweet 18% gain and beating Street expectations by a penny. This is the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit sales and profit growth for Colgate, and the highest quarterly earnings-per-share increase in four years.

Leading the consumer products pack?
President and CEO Ian Cook was beaming when he announced that the company expected double-digit earnings growth for the rest of 2007 and for next year as well. With a new product pipeline that's bursting, and the benefit of a shift toward higher-margin products, things look pretty rosy at Colgate.

Compare this with Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), which met earnings expectations but warned that rising commodity costs may force it to hike prices. That's music to the ears of the Colgate crowd, which said its cost savings programs were offsetting commodity inflation.

More to come
Other branded consumer product companies like Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT) and Unilever (NYSE:UL) will report results later this week. Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) reported a cool quarter a few weeks ago, while rival PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) posted solid results, but then lost some fizz. Over the past year, I've consistently argued that Foolish investors should take a closer look at these multinational branded product companies. With sweet results like these, Colgate deserves to be near the top of your list.

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