Sales: $35.9 billion
Key Personnel: Michael Treschow, chairman; Paul Polman, chief executive officer; Jean-Marc Huët, chief financial officer; Genviéve Berger, chief science officer; David Blanchard, chief category R&D officer; Alan Jope, president, North Asia; Kees Kruythoff, president, North America; Dave Lewis, president, personal care; Harish Manwani, chief operating officer; Pier Luigi Sigismondi, chief supply chain officer; Keith Weed, chief marketing and communication officer.
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, Radiant, Surf, Snuggle.
New Products: Personal Care—Timotei Organic Delight, Axe Anarchy, Vaseline Spray & Go, VO5 Choppy Cream Wax, Extreme Style Matte Definition Spray and Give Me Texture. Household Care—Domestos Extended Germ-Kill and Germ Blaster, Cif Acifizz, Comfort Bright Colours and Bright Whites, Surf 2X Concentrate; Sunlight Turbo.
Comments: The world’s second-largest consumer products company continues on pace to double in size while reducing its environmental footprint. In fact, one of its newest products, Timotei Organic Delight, is billed as the world’s first certified organic hair care range from a prominent mass-market brand.
Unilever’s corporate sales rose nearly 7% last year to $67.3 billion, driven by a 10% increase in personal care and household product sales. Net income increased 7%. Personal care volume increased 6.5% to nearly $24 billion, as market share rose across geographies with strong gains in Latin America; North Africa, Middle East and Turkey (NAMET); Africa, Middle East and Turkey (AMET) and Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (RUB).
Home care volume increased 6.2% to $12 billion, as nearly all markets posted gains. Sales of laundry products were particularly strong in Europe, China and South Africa, according to Unilever.
By region, sales in Asia/AMET/RUB rose more than 10%, driven by double-digit gains in Indonesia, China, Thailand and India. Home care and personal care sales were up, in part, due to improved sales of hair care and deodorant.
Sales in the Americas rose 7.9% on volume growth of 3.1% and price increases of 4.8%. Unilever credited double-digit gains in Brazil and Argentina as well as improved personal care sales in North America.
European sales rose less than 1%, due to continued weakness in southern Europe, particularly Greece and Spain. Those declines were offset by strong performances in France and the UK.
Emerging markets accounted for 55% of sales last year, compared to 52% in 2011. At the same time, emerging market profitability is closing in on the company’s average. In 2012, Unilever’s core operating margin was 13.8%. Margin in developed markets was 14.3% v. 13.3% in emerging markets.
For the first quarter of 2013, sales rose less than 1% to $15.6 billion, but sales in emerging markets accounted for more than 57% of sales. Just last month, Unilever increased its stake in Hindustan Lever from 52% to 67%.
In a Deutsche Bank Conference presentation in June, CFO Jean-Marc Huët noted that thanks to changes in senior management (66% are in new roles), innovative product launches (Dove Men+Care is already a €300 million business) improved underlying sales growth and cash generation, and low cost business models, Unilever is ready for the next stage of its journey, moving from “fit to compete” to “fit to win.”
Many of these “wins” are expected to take place in emerging markets, as 1.8 billion consumers, primarily in emerging markets, will improve their economic situation by 2020. Huët segmented the global population into three basic groups and predicted that the “Have Lots” will grow from 1.9 billion to three billion; the “Haves” will grow from 2.0 billion to 2.7 billion and the “Have Nots” will fall from 2.9 billion to 1.9 billion.
That’s good news for Unilever, since the company has an “unparalleled footprint” in key emerging markets. For example, it is the No. 1 fabric care marketer in Brazil, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Argentina and the No. 1 hair care marketer in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Argentina and Pakistan.
Few advertising programs have captured the level of attention of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. What began in 2004 as a way to provoke discussion about widening the definition of beauty by using real women in advertising has, in recent years, been a study on how to improve women’s self-image. The most recent chapter in the campaign, dubbed “Camera Shy,” insists 77% of women around the world often feel self-conscious or uncomfortable about having their photos taken. This image anxiety keeps them from capturing memories of holidays and other big events.
According to Unilever research, women become more self-conscious in front of the camera at the age of 24, while 55% of women say they feel more camera-shy than they did 10 years ago. Moreover, 63% of women have destroyed photos of themselves, while 41% have used technology to enhance how they look in a photo before posting it online.