Through good times and bad, food and beverage giant PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) has a habit of delivering consistent sales and earnings growth. First-quarter results released Thursday morning were no exception -- a welcome relief with higher food and commodity costs really starting to put a hurt on some of the competition. Pepsi put its size as well as its diverse products and distribution to good use in posting impressive 13.4% sales growth and a respectable 7.7% improvement in earnings per share for the quarter.

International growth was expected to be strong and didn't disappoint: Those sales advanced 27%, led by top-line strength in the Middle East/Africa/Asia region, which reported a 30% boost.

The only true negative for the quarter was a 0.6% fall in volume in the Americas beverage unit, which sells its signature soda and a number of non-carbonated beverages in North America and Latin America. But still, the unit managed 6% sales growth and a 7% profit increase, despite the fact that U.S. consumers continue to shift to healthier, non-fizzy drinks.

CEO Indra Nooyi summed up the quarter best by saying that Pepsi "faced the challenge of a macroeconomic slowdown in the U.S. and continued global commodity inflation, but the strength and breadth of our global footprint and portfolio helped us deliver strong first-quarter results." Again, the international strength is nice, but nothing special, because most companies, including archrival Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), are basking in an ideal environment worldwide because of a weak dollar and robust growth in developing markets.

You have to really give management kudos (or maybe Fritos?) for weathering a tough climate here at home. Food rivals such as Kraft (NYSE: KFT), Sara Lee (NYSE: SLE), and Dean Foods (NYSE: DF) are having a much tougher time growing the top line and maintaining profits right now. Fellow Fool Rich Smith rightly pointed out that profitability at Pepsi has contracted somewhat recently, but double-digit net margins are nothing to sneeze at, even during the best of times.  

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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.