Sales: $35.3 bilion for personal and home care. Corporate sales: $60.6 billion.
Key Personnel: Paul Polman, chief executive officer; Graeme Pitkethly, chief financial officer; David Blanchard, chief research and development officer; Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer; Alan Jope, president, beauty and personal care; Kees Kruythoff, president, home care; Leena Hair, chief human resources officer; Hanneke Faber, president, Europe; Amanda Sourry, president, North America and global head of customer development; Keith Weed, chief marketing and communications officer.
Major Products: Home Care—Domestos, Omo, Surf, Ala, Biotex, Blueair, Brilhante, Cajoline, Cif, Coral, Drive, Jif, New Magic, Persil, Puro, Rin, Rinso, Robijn, Savo, Skip, Sun, Surf Excel, Unox, Viss, Vivere, Wheel, Xtra, Andy, Cuñataí, Deja, Dero, Fab, Fofo, Lavomatic, Mimosin, Nevex, Radiante, Sunil, Sunlight, Super Pell, Szavo, Via, Viso, Vixal, Wipol and Wonderlight. Personal Care—Axe, Dove, Lifebuoy, Lux, Rexona, Signal, Sunsilk, Aviance, Badedas, International Breeze, Brut, Caress, Citra, Clear, Closeup, Duschdas, Eskinol, Fair & Lovely, Fissan Baby, Hazeline, Pears, Pond’s Simple, Suave, Sunlight, Tigi, VO5, Vaseline, Williams, Zwitsal, Aim, Amodent, Andrélon, Baba, Block & White, Clinic Plus, Coco Varela, Cream Silk, Dawn, Elefante, Elle 18, Folicure, Gabi, Geisha, Glysolid, Good Morning, Hamam, Kalina, Le Sancy, Ayush Therapy, Liril, Matey, Monsavon, Organics, PS, Prodent, Proderm, Ultrex, Zendium, Zhonghua.
New Products: Personal Care—Dove, Lynx and Radox shower foams, Schmidt’s Body Wash, Baby Dove, Lever Ayush, Hijab Fresh, Signal White Now, Love Beauty & Planet; Household Care—Domestos toilet blocks, Persil Power Gems, Sun Dishwasher tablets; Acquisitions—Schmidt’s Naturals, Carver Korea, Hourglass Cosmetics.
Comments: Corporate sales rose nearly 2% last year, but personal care and home care businesses did even better, rising 2.6% and 5.6%, respectively. Operating margin rose 110 basis points, driven by savings from Unilever’s Connected for Growth (C4G) program, which was started in 2016. The company says that over 66% of the more than $2.2 billion in savings generated last year were plowed back into brands. And that, according to Unilever, is exactly the point. A key measure of longer term success will be the company’s ability to roll-out bigger and more impactful innovations even quicker, both globally and locally, it said. Last year, the number of local launches rose substantially. Globally, Baby Dove rolled out to 19 more countries and Domestos toilet blocks expanded into 33 countries, which helped drive double-digit growth for the brand.
Personal care sales reached $22.4 billion, helped along by brands with turnover of €1 billion or above, Axe, Dove, Lux, Rexona and Sunsilk. Four markets generated turnover of more than €1 billion: US, India, Brazil and Indonesia, highlighting its emerging market strengths which generated $13.5 billion of turnover. Last year, the Simple sensitive skin care range was rolled out to new markets, while several brands such as Dove and Sunsilk launched natural extensions. In India, Lever Ayush, a brand using ayurvedic ingredients for skin, hair and oral care products, was launched. Hijab Fresh, a hand and body lotion specifically developed for Muslim consumers, was launched in Indonesia. Other launches included KJU Perfumed by Lux in China, capitalizing on the appeal of Korean beauty, and Signal’s White Now Correction range in Europe. North America saw the launch Love Beauty & Planet, a millennial-focused hair care and skin cleansing brand, and ApotheCare Essentials, a range of apothecary-inspired hair care products. Several acquisitions were completed in line with the category’s strategy.
Carver Korea was bought to strengthen skin care sales in China, Japan and South Korea. Hourglass, a luxury color cosmetics brand, Schmidt’s Naturals deodorant brand and Sundial Brands, a US hair care and skin care company serving multicultural and millennial consumers, were acquired in 2017. An agreement was also announced in 2017 to acquire the home care and personal care business of Quala S.A., adding hair and male grooming brands in north Latin America.
The home care division has two brands, Omo (Persil) and Surf, with of €1 billion or more. As with all Unilever businesses, emerging markets are a core strength, accounting for 80% of sales. The company said that premiumization, portfolio evolution and expansion in new geographies all contributed to strong growth in South Asia, Africa, North Africa and the Middle East; as well as Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In more challenging European, South East Asian and some Latin American markets, investment in core brands resulted in growth for Radiant in Brazil, Comfort in China and Sunlight in Indonesia. This was complemented by successful launches of Surf laundry detergents and Sunlight Dishwashing tablets in Central and Eastern Europe, combined with the continued success of Domestos toilet blocks in Europe and liquid laundry detergents in South East Asia.
The 2017 acquisition of Quala SA, a home care and personal care company, will add brands in north Latin America. Consistent with Unilever’s Connected 4 Growth program, home care met changing consumer trends with with speedy local launches. For example, the Italian Cif team identified the potential for nozzles to deliver either a spray or a foam and launched within seven months. Comfort Sakura, a Millennial-inspired cherry blossom fragrance in Japan and China, was launched in five months. Global innovations also accelerated. Capitalizing on the increased penetration of dishwash machines, Sun dishwasher tablets with improved performance, were launched within 12 months. The category continued its innovation in laundry by launching Persil Powergems, a revolutionary format with a new concentrated formula which both lowers Unilever’s greenhouse gas footprint and delivers high performance. Home care’s innovations responded quickly to consumers’ desires for hygiene, natural ingredients and products that care for sensitive skin. Sales of Seventh Generation, a 2016 acquisition, grew by double digits. Sensitive, a growing segment addressing skin sensitivity, expanded in 24 countries while Neutral, another 2016 acquisition, is now in 11 countries.
For the first quarter of 2018, sales fell 5.2% due to a 9.8% Forex drag, but the company noted that underlying sales growth was 3.4%. Results improved in India and China, but weakened in South Africa and Indonesia. Unilever maintains that C4G is starting to deliver in home care and the portfolio is evolving with businesses such as Seventh Generation and Blue Air.