2018 was another year of solid performance, with double digit growth in recurring EPS, at constant exchange rate and excluding the impact of Yakult, in line with our guidance. Sales growth accelerated, at 2.9% on a like-for-like basis. Margin improved for the fourth consecutive year, to 14.45%, our €1 billion efficiency program ‘Protein’ delivered ahead of plan and free cash flow increased by more than 7%, at €2.2 billion.
All our businesses contributed to the growth, despite headwinds in some of our markets such as Morocco. Significant plant-based expansion and a strong acceleration of innovation have bolstered the performance of our Essential Dairy & Plant-Based business, with Europe managing to stabilize sales at year end. Waters have grown at a consistent strong pace this year, across all geographies. Specialized Nutrition posted a year of broad-based profitable growth, driven by strong performance of pediatric and adult care in Advanced Medical Nutrition and by Early Life Nutrition, with notable contribution of China.