Jan 30, 2023
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Hein Schumacher is new Unilever CEO

Jan 30, 2023

Global beauty and consumer products giant Unilever has announced its new CEO who’s set to take over from outgoing chief Alan Jope on 1 July. And his name? Step forward Hein Schumacher.


While Jope had been a Unilever insider when he stepped up to the top job, Schumacher comes from outside, although he’s been a non-executive director of Unilever since October last year and actually began his career at the group back in 1997.

His core experience is in the foods area of consumer products (with foods being another of Unilever’s key super-categories).

He’s currently CEO of the global dairy and nutrition business Royal FrieslandCampina, an €11bn turnover firm. As mentioned, he’ll take on the top job on 1 July, after a one-month handover period.

The company said he’s “a business leader with an excellent track record across multiple leading companies in the consumer goods industry”. 

As CEO of Royal FrieslandCampina, a business operating in over 40 countries, “he has delivered significant portfolio and organisation change as part of transforming it into a more focused, growth-driven and sustainable business”.

Prior to joining it as CFO in 2014, he worked for HJ Heinz for over a decade (during a time of significant change at the company), operating across the US, Europe and Asia. In his last four years at Heinz, he was based in China, “where he led a turnaround of the Asia Pacific zone”. 

Unilever Chairman Nils Andersen said: “Hein is a dynamic, values-driven business leader who has a diverse background of experiences and an excellent track record of delivery in the global consumer goods industry. He has exceptional strategic capabilities, proven operational effectiveness, and strong experience in both developed and developing markets. The board looks forward to Hein realising the full potential of Unilever as a winning business which delivers long-term growth and value for all its stakeholders.”


He also thanked Jope “for his leadership. The changes he has made to the company's strategy, structure and organisation leave Unilever far better positioned for success.”

Fifty-one-year-old Schumacher will receive annual fixed pay of €1.85 million, be eligible to receive annual bonus and Performance Share Plan awards, and relocation support, all in line with Unilever's existing remuneration policy. “His salary puts him at the median of our benchmark companies,” the company said.  

The company owns Hourglass, Tatcha, Paula’s Choice, Sure, Dove, Vaseline, Simple, Tresemmé, and Lynx, among others. Prestige Beauty is among its fastest-growing business areas and its ambition is to build it into a €3 billion business.

Despite this ambition, it has been under intense pressure in recent years to perform more strongly. While the Anglo-Dutch group remains one of the world’s leading consumer products businesses, its growth has slowed and it has come in for criticism from some big shareholders for its focus on ethical and sustainability issues.

While those investors are of the view that being green won’t drive sales, they’re perhaps overlooking the fact consumers themselves are increasingly eco/ethically-focused and not being green could go down badly with many of Unilever’s customers.

It will be Schumacher’s big task to reignite significant growth without compromising those sustainability credentials.

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