Unilever strong as beauty acquisitions boost sales
Consumer products giant Unilever defied expectations on Thursday and reported higher than predicted quarterly underlying sales growth as a combination of higher prices, larger volumes, and strength in emerging markets all took analysts by surprise.
The Dove, Ponds, Dollar Shave Club and Hourglass owner said that those sales were up 3.1% to a massive £12.4 billion with 1.2% of the increase coming from volume and 1.9% from price. Importantly, underlying sales in emerging markets grew 5%.
CEO Alan Jope called it a “solid start that keeps us on track for our full-year expectations.” He added that “accelerating growth is our number one priority. It requires both great execution and a continued strategic shift into faster growth segments and channels.”
And beauty is likely to be a big part of that. Importantly, the acquisitions it has made since 2015 (which includes a raft of beauty brands) “collectively grew double-digit in the first quarter.”
In the key Beauty & Personal care division (its biggest operating unit), underlying sales growth matched the overall company’s figure with a 3.1% rise to €5.2 billion. Skincare and deodorants “had a good start,” while hair and skin cleansing “grew modestly.” Sales in oral care declined due to challenging market conditions.
The company said its global brands were helped by innovations including the launch of a new patented anti-perspirant technology in its Rexona Clinical Protection range and extra moisturising properties for its Dove foaming handwash in North America. Ponds and Sunsilk also grew well.
It added that a further increase in the number of local innovations is helping it to “capture emerging trends better and faster than ever before,” such as its St. Ives facial mists, “an on-trend new format,” and the Love Beauty & Planet line that “continued to build scale.”
As mentioned, its acquisitions performed strongly and Dollar Shave Club did so as it rolled out a new 'full-service model' designed to make it easier for subscribers to add a full range of grooming products to their monthly regime.
Prestige also delivered another quarter of double-digit growth and Schmidt's and Quala grew strongly, helped by their expansion into other personal care categories.
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