LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Nestle has seen "hesitancy among consumers and a preference for local brands" in the Middle East following the start of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, its CEO said on a call with journalists on Thursday.

Britain's Unilever earlier this month reported its fourth-quarter sales growth in Southeast Asia had been hurt by shoppers in Indonesia boycotting brands of multinational companies "in response to the geopolitical situation in the Middle East".

(Reporting by Richa Naidu; editing by Jason Neely)