Unilever PLC’s first quarter results reflect solid performance in challenging market conditions in the first quarter. Despite sluggish economies, weak consumer confidence in many markets and sustained levels of competitive intensity, all of categories grew strongly with a positive contribution from volume. Commenting on the company’s performance, CEO Paul Polman said in a prepared statement: “Emerging markets, now 56 percent of the business, have again delivered strong growth and while the good performance in developed markets was against a weak prior year comparator, our performance is pleasing given struggling economies, continued fragile consumer confidence and competitor activity.”
Growth in the savory foods category reflected the continued success of the Knorr baking bags and the extension of the jelly bouillon technology into gravy.
Spreads and dressings both grew strongly. The new Flora margarine made with cool-blend technology is now being rolled out across Europe. Liquid margarine ranges are doing well and the growth of the Hellmann’s brand continues to be driven by the campaign to encourage new uses of mayonnaise.
Ice cream growth was helped by the successful launches of Magnum in North America, Malaysia and the Philippines and the introduction of the Magnum Infinity range in Europe. The earlier seasonal pipeline fill in Europe accompanied a good sell-in for Cornetto Devils & Angels and Cornetto Enigma Cookie.
Beverages growth was slower. In Brazil the company saw weak volumes in soy beverages following recent significant price increases. However, the recently relaunched Lipton brand is performing well in Russia and we have just started shipments of Lipton tea and honey in the U.S.