For the fourth quarter, Unilever reported sales growth at 4.1% to €11.8 billion ($16 billion) with personal care up 7.3% to €4.5 billion ($6.1 billion) and home care rising 6.5% to €2.1 billion ($2.8 billion).
“(The result) provides further evidence of the progress we are making in transforming Unilever into a sustainable growth company,” said Paul Polman, chief executive officer, Unilever. “We have delivered another year of consistent underlying sales growth and margin expansion coupled with strong cash flow. This has been achieved despite significant economic headwinds and highly competitive markets, and reflects the benefits of strong margin accretive innovations and active cost management.”
Going forward, Polman said he anticipates ongoing volatility in the external environment, but promised that Unilever is being positioned accordingly.
In personal care, hair care growth in the fourth quarter was underpinned by strong performances from global brands Dove, TreSemmé, Sunsilk and Clear. TreSemmé benefited from launches into countries such as India and Indonesia as well as the success of the Keratin Smooth product range. Dove Repair Expertise is now in more than 50 markets, Toni&Guy was launched into the US and Lux hair was relaunched in Japan and China with good initial results, said Polman. Skin cleansing growth highlights included Dove Nutrium Moisture shower gels, including the Purely Pampering range, Lifebuoy Clini-Care10 coupled with handwashing market development activities and the launch of Lux Fine Fragrance body wash. In skin care, Vaseline Spray and Go continued to grow strongly and Dove sales were driven by the Dove Men+Care face range and the new Dove facial cleansing range with DEFI technology launched in Japan. Pond’s BB+ cream made good progress while the Pond’s Men range in Indonesia and Thailand is leading the development of the male segment of the market.
Deodorants grew ahead of the markets supported by the success of the Rexona Do:More campaign and the MotionSense technology now available in both male and female versions. Axe Apollo established itself as a very successful variant, and compressed deodorants have driven growth ahead of the market while delivering significant environmental benefits. Oral care saw the continuation of the successful Brush Day and Night campaign, which is now in 15 countries, and successful innovations such as Zhong Hua Porcelain White.
In home care, laundry growth in the quarter was volume-driven, both in fabric cleaners and fabric conditioners. New concentrated Small & Mighty liquid detergents with an improved formulation and innovative pack are now available in five markets, and Omo with a touch of Comfort Super-Sensorial range has been successfully launched in Vietnam. Fabric conditioners growth has been supported by the continued success of the Aromatherapy range in South East Asia. Household care grew double digits in the quarter helped by white space launches such as Cif and Domestos in Brazil, and the continued strong momentum of the dishwash brands. Innovations such as Cif ultrafast sprays, Domestos Longer Lasting Germ Kill and Sunlight Power of 100 Lemons all contributed to the growth.