Sales: $36.6 billion
Note: $36.6 billion for home care and personal care products.
Corporate sales: $58.2 billion
Alan Jope, chief executive officer; Nils Andersen, chair, Unilever NV and PLC; Graeme Pitkethly, chief financial officer; Conny Braams, chief digital and marketing officer; Fabian Garcia, president, North America; Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer; Sunny Jain, president, beauty and personal care; Peter Ter Kulve, president, home care; Sanjiv Mehta, president, South Asia; Leena Nair, chief HR officer; Nitin Paranjpe, chief operating officer; Richard Slater, chief R&D officer; Ritva Sotamaa, chief legal officer and group secretary
Home care: Cif, Day2, Domestos, Omo, Seventh Generation, Sunlight, Surf; Personal care—Axe, Clear, Dermalogica, Dove, Hourglass, Lifebuoy, Living Proof, Lux, Pond’s, Rexona, Signal, Smile, Suave, Sunsilk, Tresemmé, Vaseline
Personal care: Pond’s Glow Up. Acquisitions: Garancia and Tatcha skin care
Comments: Corporate sales rose just 2% last year, below 3-5% targets. Unilever blamed the 0.5% decline in developed markets primarily on European deflation. In contrast, underlying sales in emerging markets rose 5.3%. Beauty and personal care sales increased 6% last year to $24.5 billion. Underlying sales growth added 2.6%, favorable forex results added 2.4% and a favorable contribution of 0.9% came from acquisitions. Specifically, hair care accounted for 12% of sales, skin cleansing 10%, deodorants 8% and skin care 8%. Unilever said deodorants delivered strong, broad-based growth, supported by double-digit growth from Dove. The Rexona Clinical range, with patented antiperspirant technology to better serve consumer needs, and Dove’s zero aluminum range performed well. Growth in skin cleansing was muted by price reductions as a result of lower commodity prices. Dove’s growth in skin cleansing was supported by microbiome-friendly innovations. Growth was weak in hair care due, in part, to competitive pressure in the US and continued pressure from local players in China. Japan and Europe also underperformed. In skin care, Pond’s and Vaseline performed well, with on-trend innovations such as Pond’s Glow Up cream. Unilever expanded into white space markets with its Simple brand, which is now in 30 markets, including Turkey and the Gulf region. Oral care grew slightly and natural variants such as charcoal, aloe and clove gave a lift to sales of Smile.
Prestige brands delivered double-digit growth, with strong performances from Dermalogica, Hourglass and Living Proof. Carver Korea and Sundial had a more challenging year. Last year, Unilever expanded its prestige portfolio by acquiring Garancia, a French derma-cosmetic brand, and Tatcha, which it describes as “a modern skin care brand rooted in classical Kyoto rituals.”
Home care sales rose 6.9% to $12.0 billion on the strength of green cleaning initiatives. Fabric solutions, home and hygiene accounted for 21% of turnover. Unilever said the gains were due, in part, to the success of Cif surface sprays with natural cleaning ingredients. Hand dishwash sales rose, with good performance from Sunlight with recycled packaging, as well as white space launches in Brazil with Brilhante and in China with Omo. Unilever said that format premiumization continued to be a growth driver in fabric, with good growth in liquids and capsules. Seventh Generation’s sales rose sharply. Fabric performance was supported by ongoing market development driven growth in India, where Unilever launched premium detergent brand Love & Care. In China, the company successfully launched Love Home & Planet. However, home care turnover in Africa was lower than expected.
For Q1 2020, as the pandemic raged, Unilever’s sales rose just 0.2% as underlying sales were flat and volume growth of 0.2% was offset by a 0.2% decline in pricing. Developed markets underlying sales growth was 2.8% and emerging markets declined 1.8%.
“Covid-19 is having an unprecedented impact on people and economies worldwide. Unilever has moved at speed to support our multiple stakeholders and maintain our operations through the crisis, and prepare for growth in a new normal,” explained CEO Alan Jope. “We have structured our immediate response into five areas: supporting our people; protecting supply; serving demand; contributing to society; and maintaining our financial strength.”
Like other household and personal products companies, Unilever reported a surge in demand for personal cleansers, laundry and home cleaning products, offset by declines in prestige cosmetics.
No discussion of Unilever is complete without mentioning its environmental efforts. Unilever was one of the first FMCG companies to recognize the devastating impact unbridled consumption has on the planet. Earlier this year, Unilever retained its spot in the Masters category within the Gartner Supply Chain Top 25. The Masters category recognizes companies that have attained top-five composite scores for at least seven out of the past 10 years.