May 18, 2024

Corporate Nex Hub

Bringing business progress

Improved volume growth led by Power Brands

8 min read

Statement from Hein Schumacher, CEO

“Unilever delivered improved volume growth in the first quarter. This was driven by our Power Brands which saw underlying sales growth of 6.1%, with strong performances from Dove, Knorr, Rexona and Sunsilk.

We are implementing the Growth Action Plan at speed, focused on three clear priorities: delivering higher-quality growth, creating a simpler and more productive business, and embedding a strong performance focus. This is underpinned by our commitment to do fewer things, better and with greater impact.

In March, we announced the separation of Ice Cream and the launch of a comprehensive productivity programme. These actions will drive focus, faster growth and reduce costs. Dedicated project teams are progressing the work at pace.

Unilever’s transformation is at an early stage, but we have increasing confidence in our ability to deliver sustained volume growth and positive mix as we accelerate gross margin expansion.”

Outlook

Our 2024 guidance is unchanged. We expect underlying sales growth (USG) for 2024 to be within our multi-year range of 3% to 5%, with an increasing contribution from volume growth.

We are confident of delivering a modest improvement in underlying operating margin for the full year, reflecting higher gross margin and increased investment behind our brands.

Overall performance

Underlying sales growth in the quarter was 4.4%, with balanced volume and price growth. Underlying volume growth increased to 2.2% from 1.8% in Q4 2023, while underlying price growth of 2.2% moderated slightly from 2.8% in the previous quarter. The Power Brands continued to perform strongly with 6.1% underlying sales growth, underpinned by volume growth of 3.8%.

Beauty & Wellbeing grew underlying sales by 7.4%, with volume growth of 5.6% driven by continued double-digit growth from Health & Wellbeing and Prestige Beauty. Personal Care grew 4.8% with 1.4% from volume despite a particularly strong prior year comparator.

Home Care underlying sales increased 3.1%, with 4.3% volume growth more than offsetting the negative price growth reflecting commodity cost driven deflation in some of our markets. Nutrition grew underlying sales by 3.7%, with volumes sequentially improving to -0.4% from -1.1% in Q4. Ice Cream grew 2.3%, led by price as volumes declined -0.9%. As we move into the main ice cream season, Ice Cream’s performance will be supported by the operational changes that have been made to drive improved productivity, product rationalisation and investment behind significant innovations.

Emerging markets grew underlying sales 5.4%, with 3.9% from volume. Latin America, Turkey and Africa continued their momentum from 2023 and delivered strong sales growth with positive volumes. Sales in China grew mid-single digit with good volumes, particularly in Unilever Food Solutions. South Asia growth was driven by volume, while input cost deflation led to further negative price growth in India. South East Asia was impacted by a sales decline in Indonesia, reflecting the continued, but less material, impact of some Indonesian consumers avoiding multinational brands in response to the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.

Underlying sales in developed markets grew 3.0%, with volumes almost flat at -0.3%. North America delivered sales growth of 3.6%, with positive volume growth at 1.4% driven by continued strong performances of Health & Wellbeing and Prestige Beauty. In Europe, underlying sales growth was 4.0%, driven by price. Volume declined 1.5%, but sequentially improved with a return to volume growth in the UK, France and Eastern Europe, as price growth continued to moderate from the peak in Q2 2023.

Turnover was €15.0 billion, up 1.4% versus the prior year, including -2.0% from currency and -0.9% from disposals net of acquisitions.

Capital allocation

With our full year results in February 2024, we announced that the Board had approved a share buyback programme of up to €1.5 billion to be conducted during 2024, which we expect to commence in the second quarter. The quarterly interim dividend for the first quarter is maintained at €0.4268.

Beauty & Wellbeing (21% of Q1 Group turnover)

In Beauty & Wellbeing, we are focused on three key priorities that will drive the unmissable superiority of our brands: elevating our core Hair Care and Skin Care brands to increase premiumisation; fuelling the growth of Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing with selective international expansion; and continuing to strengthen our beauty and wellbeing capabilities.

Beauty & Wellbeing underlying sales grew 7.4% with 5.6% from volume and 1.7% from price.

Hair Care delivered mid-single digit growth with positive volume and price. Dove grew high-single digit supported by the launch of Scalp+ Hair Therapy, which is clinically proven to create optimal scalp health and hair density. Clear, the world’s best-selling shampoo for men, grew high-single digit helped by the continued rollout of our patented anti-dandruff shampoo. Sunsilk grew double-digit while TRESemmé grew high-single digit and continued to expand its ultra-gloss Lamellar Shine shampoos and conditioners to new markets.

Core Skin Care grew mid-single digit with good growth in India and the US. This growth was partially offset by a low-single digit decline in North Asia driven by price. Vaseline grew double-digit with the successful rollout of Gluta Hya body care to new markets and the launch of new variants, including our Smooth and Glow range which offers the first body lotion with chemical exfoliation. Following the relaunch last year, Pond’s face care continued its good momentum with high-single digit growth led by volume.

Health & Wellbeing delivered another quarter of double-digit growth with the expansion of Liquid IV in the UK and strong contributions from Olly and Nutrafol. In Q1, we extended Nutrafol into skin care with a physician-formulated daily supplement for women designed to address the root causes of acne. Prestige Beauty grew double-digit led by Tatcha, Hourglass and Living Proof.

Personal Care (23% of Q1 Group turnover)

In Personal Care, we are focused on winning with science-led brands that deliver unmissable superiority to our consumers across Deodorants, Skin Cleansing, and Oral Care. Our priorities include developing superior technology and multi-year innovation platforms, leveraging partnerships with our customers, and expanding into premium areas and digital channels.

Personal Care underlying sales grew 4.8% with 1.4% from volume and 3.4% from price.

Deodorants grew double-digit with high-single digit volume growth. Growth was led by strong performances in Europe and Latin America. Dove double-digit growth was helped by the US launch of Whole Body Deodorants with 72-hour odour control for full-body freshness. Rexona and Axe contributed strong growth with continued momentum of our multi-year platforms, 72-hour nonstop odour and sweat protection and our Fine Fragrance range.

Skin Cleansing was flat with low-single digit price offset by volume declines. Q1 growth was impacted by deflation in India and market challenges in Indonesia. Dove grew high-single digit with mid-single digit volume growth. In the US, we launched a premium range of Dove Body Wash infused with clinically proven skin care serums including hyaluronic acid, collagen and vitamin C.

Oral Care continued to grow mid-single digit with positive volume and price, led by double-digit growth in Closeup.

Home Care (21% of Q1 Group turnover)

In Home Care, we focus on delivering for consumers who want superior products that are sustainable and great value. We drive growth through unmissable superiority in our biggest brands, in our key markets and across channels. We have a resilient business that spans price points and grows the market by premiumising and trading consumers up to additional benefits.

Home Care underlying sales grew 3.1% with 4.3% from volume and -1.1% from price.

Fabric Cleaning grew low-single digit with mid-single digit volume and negative price. This was led by Europe which grew high-single digit, with a return to positive volume growth. India and Latin America grew volume, which was partially offset by price declines in our powders portfolio as a result of commodity deflation. OMO grew low-single digit with mid-single digit volume.

Home & Hygiene grew mid-single digit with mid-single digit volume and slightly positive price. Cif and Domestos grew double-digit with strong volume. Following the successful launch of Domestos Power Foam in the UK in 2023, we expanded the product to new markets and extended the range to include specialist solutions to remove limescale and provide long-lasting fragrance.

Nutrition (23% of Q1 Group turnover)

In Nutrition, our strategy is to deliver consistent, competitive growth by offering unmissably superior products through our biggest brands. We do this by reaching more consumers and focusing on top dishes and high consumption seasons to satisfy consumer’s preferences on taste, health and sustainability; while delivering productivity and resilience in our supply chain.

Nutrition underlying sales grew 3.7% with 4.1% from price and -0.4% from volume. Volume sequentially improved but was still negative in Europe, partially affected by the impact of SKU reductions.

Dressings delivered mid-single digit growth with positive price and volume. Hellmann’s led growth supported by the relaunch of Plant Based Mayo and the launch of four new variants of Flavoured Mayo: Chipotle, Italian Herbs, Tajin, and Truffle.

Scratch Cooking Aids grew high-single digit. Knorr led growth as it continued to expand its multi-year ‘Eat for Good’ campaign, including superior Bouillon & Seasonings variants for both retail and foodservice. North America grew mid-single digit supported by the launch of ready-to-eat rice cups. Europe saw mid-single digit price growth fully offset by a decline in volume, while Latin America, Africa and North Asia all grew double-digit.

Unilever Food Solutions grew double-digit with high-single digit volume, led by strong growth in China against a soft comparator.

Ice Cream (12% of Q1 Group turnover)

In Ice Cream, our immediate strategic priority is to expand operating profit and global market share. We will do this by building the unmissable superiority of our brands, accelerating market development in emerging markets, continuing to lead the industry on innovation and premiumisation, and by stepping up our performance and productivity. In March, we announced the planned separation of Ice Cream which we expect to be completed by the end of 2025. The separation will create a world-leading business, operating in a highly attractive category with five of the top ten selling global ice cream brands.

Ice Cream underlying sales grew 2.3% with 3.2% from price, partially offset by negative volume of -0.9%.

In-home Ice Cream was flat with price offset by a decline in volume. Out-of-home Ice Cream grew mid-single digit driven by price.

Wall’s grew mid-single digit with positive price and volume. Magnum declined low-single digit with price growth more than offset by a volume decline. We launched a new Magnum ‘Pleasure Express’ range with three variants: Euphoria, Wonder, and Chill. Ben & Jerry’s and Cornetto grew low-single digit with positive volumes.

As we move into the main summer season, Ice Cream has made operational changes to drive improved productivity and investment behind our brands and innovations.

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