Sales: $36.8 billion
Key Personnel: Paul Polman, chief executive officer; Jean-Marc Huët, chief financial officer; Douglas Anderson Baillie, chief HR officer; David Blanchard, chief R&D officer; Alan Jope, president, Russia, Africa & Middle East; Kees Kruythoff, president, North America; Dave Lewis, president, personal care; Harish Manwani, chief operating officer; Nitin Paranjpe, president, home care; Pier Luigi Sigismondi, chief supply chain officer; Ritva Sotamaa, chief legal officer; Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer; Jan Zijderveld, president, 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, Radiant, Surf, Snuggle.
New Products: Personal Care—Dove Advanced Hair Series, TreSemmé 7 Day Smooth, Signal White Now Men, Dove Repair Expertise, Vaseline Spray & Go, Axe Apollo; Home Care—Small & Mighty liquid detergent, Cif direct application floor cleaner, Omo with Wash Boosters.
Comments: Sales fell 3% last year, primarily due to unfavorable currency exchange rates, as underlying sales growth increased 4.3%. While some multinationals have been running away from emerging markets, Unilever remains committed to these countries and these consumers, which accounted for 57% of sales last year. Company executives say emerging markets will continue to play a key role in Unilever’s strategy of doubling its business while reducing its environmental footprint.
By segment, personal care accounted for 36% of group sales, with home care representing 18% of turnover.
Personal care sales were essentially flat, due to exchange rates, although underlying sales growth of 7.3% was broad-based across hair care, skin care, deodorants and oral care.
Home care sales fell 1.2%, even as volume improved 5.7% and underlying sales growth was up 8%. Growth in laundry was attributed to the introduction of products such as Omo with wash boosters and the launch of Comfort fabric conditioners’ Aromatherapy range in Southeast Asia. Also providing a lift was the rollout of Cif and Domestos in Brazil.
By region, Asia, AMET (Africa, Middle East and Turkey) and RUB (Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) accounted for 40% of sales, which declined 1.3% despite the fact that Unilever posted another year of double-digit growth in its three biggest markets in the region: India, Indonesia and China. There was strong growth in Vietnam, but growth slowed in Thailand and sales declined in Japan.
The Americas accounted for 33% of sales last year, but sales fell 5.2% despite gains in North American personal care sales and strong overall performances in Brazil and Argentina.
Sales in Europe fell 2.7%, as southern European markets like Greece, Italy and Spain continued to be a drag on results. Unilever said sales were up in the UK for the sixth year in a row and were stable in France.
Exchange rates took a toll on results in the first quarter of 2014 too, as corporate sales fell 6.3% to $15.6 billion. Personal care sales fell 5.9% to $5.7 billion, despite the expansion of a compressed aerosol deodorant formula in Europe and the launch of a Dove premium range in the US. Also providing a lift were sales of Lux, which rose on the strength of a relaunch in China and Southeast Asia.
Home care sales fell 4.9% to $3.0 billion, despite new product launches such as Small & Mighty concentrated detergents in new markets and the rollout of Cif direct application floor cleaner in Europe and Sun Ultimate dish tablets in France.
• Unilever execs have a knack for seeing the big picture, like climate change and sales performance in emerging markets; but they can see the small picture, too. One example of that is the recent rollout of the Unilever Foundry, which is designed to support and cultivate new businesses that may grow into a long-term strategic partner for Unilever. A typical partnership is for three months and during this time Unilever mentors will work individually with start-ups and entrepreneurs to craft their brand vision, marketing strategy and product roadmap. Mentorship generally involves meeting for one hour every two-to-three weeks.
“Through The Unilever Foundry mentorship program, we are simultaneously contributing to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whilst also enabling our marketers to engage directly with start-ups and be inspired by new ideas and ways of working,” explained Marc Mathieu, SVP-global marketing.