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1. Unilever

Published August 11, 2011
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1. Unilever

Noxema is making a comeback this year with new products.

United Kingdom


Sales:$28.5 billion

Key Personnel:

Paul Polman, chief executive officer; Jean-Marc Huët, chief financial officer; Doug Baillie, chief human resources officer; Geneviéve Berger, chief research and development officer; Dave Lewis, president, Americas; Harish Manwani, president, Asia, Africa, Central & Eastern Europe; Pier Luigi Sigismondi, chief supply chain officer; Keith Weed, chief marketing and communication officer; Jan Zijderveld, president, Western Europe.

Major Products:

Personal Care—Axe/Lynx, Dove, Lifebuoy, Pond’s, Rexona, Signal, Close-Up, Sunsilk, Lux, Vaseline, Tigi. Household Care—Persil/Omo, Cif, Comfort, Domestos, Sunlight, Omo, Radiant, Surf, Snuggle.


Unilever’s sales for the first quarter of 2011 were helped along by gains in the personal care category, which includes AP/deos.

New Products:
Axe Rise and Excite variants, Dove Damage Therapy. Acquisitions—Sara Lee personal care (Radox, Duschdas and Neutral), Alberto-Culver (Nexxus, TreSemme, Alberto VO5 outside the US).

Watch out Procter & Gamble, Unilever’s CEO has you in his sights. After several years of slashing underperforming brands, Unilever went on a buying binge last year, closing its $1.7 billion purchase of Sara Lee’s personal care and laundry business in June. Last year, corporate sales jumped 11.1%, but more than half of the gain was due to currency fluctuations. Volume improved 5.8%.
Just last month, Paul Polman admitted that his company had grown “too little” during the past 10-15 years, but that he expects to catch up with rivals such as P&G within the next five years. Polman and company have a lot of catching up to do: Unilever’s corporate sales were about $58 billion last year, compared to nearly $80 billion for P&G. Analysts reckon that if P&G grows 4% annually during the next several years, Unilever will have to grow 11%, a rate that Unilever managed to achieve in 2010, when net income jumped 26%. But is that 11% sustainable? After all, from 2005 to 2009, Unilever posted only a 4% CAGR.
And even as it adds businesses, Unilever has had to do some subtraction. To gain approval of the Sara Lee acquisition, Unilever sold Sanex deodorant and bodywash brands to Colgate-Palmolive. More recently, in May, US authorities OK’d its $3.7 billion acquisition of Alberto-Culver on the condition that Unilever sell the Alberto VO5 brand in the US and divest its Rave brand.

“Without the divestitures required by the department, consumers would have paid higher prices for value shampoo and conditioner and for hairspray sold in retail stores,” Christine Varney, the assistant US attorney general in charge of the antitrust division, said in a statement.

Analysts said the VO5 divesture will hurt Unilever.

“VO5 was one of the brands that they signaled as being part of the attraction of the deal when they announced it,” observed Andrew Wood, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “I’m sure they’ll be disappointed to sell it.”

When the Alberto deal was announced, Unilever said the accord would make it the top player in hair conditioning and put it in the top three for shampoo and styling products. It’s all part of a strategy to become less reliant on its food business, where Unilever derives about half of its sales. A decade ago, the personal care business represented 20% of Unilever’s turnover. Last year, it accounted for more than 30% of sales.
As it expands its portfolio, Unilever is expanding its reach too. The company aims to generate 70% of sales from emerging markets like India and China—an aspiration shared by P&G and L’Oréal.
Tougher competition in these markets could push prices lower, costs higher and reduce margins for everybody. Still, with Western Europe and the US reaching the saturation point, multinationals are scouring the globe in search of new consumers.
To help find them, last month Unilever announced a reorganization scheme that will take effect on September 1. The new structure allows for a more efficient rollout of increasingly bigger and more scalable innovations.
“Unilever now has over half its turnover in the emerging markets, where, over the last 10 years, growth has been close to double digits,” said Polman in a statement. “We have an opportunity to better support this footprint of the business, to keep our strong momentum, with a more globally aligned country and category organization.”
As part of these changes, Harish Manwani will be appointed as chief operating officer, with responsibility for all markets, in order to drive speed-to-market behind further simplification and efficiency.
The category organization will be broadened to four categories reporting directly to Polman, with Dave Lewis, currently president, Americas, appointed president, personal care consisting of skin, deodorants, oral and hair, and in home care, Randy Quinn, currently executive VP-laundry, and Sean Gogarty, senior VP-household care, will report directly to Polman.

Additionally, Kevin Havelock, currently executive VP-ice cream, will be appointed president of the newly established refreshment category, which includes ice cream and beverages, and Antoine de Saint Affrique, currently executive VP-skin, will be appointed president, food, which includes savory, spreads and dressings. The new structures will be put in place during the third quarter and will be fully operational before year-end.
Michael B. Polk, currently president, global foods, home and personal care and member of the Unilever executive team left the company last month to become president and CEO of Newell Rubbermaid.

For the first quarter of 2011, sales rose 7% to $14.9 billion. All categories grew, driven by a particularly strong performance in the emerging markets. Commenting on the results, Polman said, “We have delivered a good performance which demonstrates that the transformation of Unilever is progressing well.”

Personal care sales rose 4.3% to $4.8 billion on a 2.5% increase in volume and a 1.8% increase in price. The company credited the first quarter gain in personal care sales to the success of Dove Men+Care, the continued strengthening of the Rexona brand and the addition of Axe Excite. Hair care sales were up in North America, China, Southeast Asia and India as a result of the rollout of Dove Damage Therapy, the continued rollout of Clear in Latin America and the relaunch of Clear in Asia.Tigi’s growth outpaced professional product sales.

Home care sales topped $2.7 billion on an 4.6% increase in volume and a 1.4% increase in price. Unilever credited the increase on strong laundry growth, driven by volume and increased pricing. Liquid detergents performed well in Southeast Asia, particularly in China and Indonesia, and the company continued to extend our presence in fabric conditioner with the recent launch in the Philippines exceeding expectations and Comfort entering Sri Lanka.

Household cleaners continued to grow as Unilever brings itspower brands into new markets. The company launched Cif in the Philippines and Algeria, while Domestos was launched in Indonesia and Unilever’s cleaning and hygiene platform was extended under the Glorix brand in Russia.

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