April 12, 2024

Corporate Nex Hub

Bringing business progress

Solid Q3 results, plan to drive growth & unlock potential

7 min read

Statement from Hein Schumacher, CEO

“Unilever is a company with strong fundamentals: a portfolio of great brands used by 3.4 billion people each day, number one or two category positions across 80% of its turnover, an unrivalled global footprint, and a team of talented people.

“Despite these strengths, our performance in recent years has not matched our potential. The quality of our growth, productivity and returns have all under-delivered.

“Today we are setting out our action plan to close this gap. We will drive faster growth by stepping up innovation and investment behind our Power Brands; we will drive simplicity and productivity, leveraging the full strength of our operating model; and we will sharpen our performance culture through strong leadership and stretching goals.

“I am excited about what we can achieve by delivering on these three priorities, as we focus on unlocking Unilever’s full potential in the months and years ahead.”

Action plan

Today we set out an action plan to drive growth and unlock potential.

Unilever is a company of many strengths, including, its category positions, the strength of its brands, its unmatched geographic reach and talented and passionate people. However, there has been a disconnect between these intrinsic strengths and the quality of our performance. Remedying this underperformance is our top priority and with Unilever’s strong fundamentals and the many opportunities across the five Business Groups, we are confident that we can achieve that.

Improved performance comes down to three things – delivering higher-quality, faster growth; stepping up productivity and simplicity; and, adopting a stronger performance focus. To address these we have defined a clear action plan that we are focusing the company on.

Faster growth

1. Focus first on 30 Power Brands – representing 70%+ of turnover

2. Drive unmissable brand superiority – addressing all elements of consumer preference

3. Scale multi-year innovation – driving market making and premiumisation

4. Increase brand investment and returns – focusing investment on areas that drive impact

5. Selectively optimise the portfolio – no major or transformational acquisitions

Productivity & simplicity

6. Build back Gross Margin – shifting from gross savings to net productivity

7. Focus our sustainability commitments – driving impact in four priority areas

8. Drive benefits of the new organisation – ensuring single point accountability

Performance Culture

9. Renewed team – leading the change

10. Drive and reward outperformance – with a new reward framework

We are providing more details on each of these in this morning’s CEO update presentation. This action plan leverages Unilever’s many capabilities and looks to accelerate areas where we are already making progress. In all areas we are focused on fewer things, done better, with greater impact.

The action plan will strengthen our performance within our multi-year financial framework:

  • Underlying sales growth of 3–5%
  • Modest margin expansion
  • 100% cash conversion
  • Mid-teens return on invested capital
  • EPS growth and an attractive dividend
  • Delivering total shareholder returns in the top third of our peer group

Appointment of new Chief Financial Officer and other executive leadership changes

As announced separately today, Fernando Fernandez has been appointed as Unilever’s new Chief Financial Officer. Fernando, currently President of Unilever’s Beauty & Wellbeing Business Group, will replace Graeme Pitkethly, who announced his decision to retire from the company earlier this year. Fernando’s appointment is effective from 1 January 2024 and he will join the Board with effect from this date.

Unilever today also announced other changes to its Unilever Leadership Executive, as set out in detail in the separate announcement available here: https://www.unilever.com/news/press-and-media/

Outlook

Our 2023 guidance remains unchanged. We continue to expect underlying sales growth for the full year to be above 5%, ahead of our multi-year range, with underlying price growth continuing to moderate.

Our expectation for net material inflation (NMI) for 2023 remains unchanged at around €2 billion. We are confident in 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 5.2% with 5.8% from price and -0.6% from volume. Price continued to moderate as inflation eased. Underlying volumes were positive in Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care and Home Care while negative volumes continued in Nutrition and Ice Cream.

The percentage of our business winning market share on a rolling 12 month-basis fell to 38% and remains impacted by significant net SKU reduction, pricing dynamics, and consumer shifts in certain markets. Improving our competitive performance is a key focus of the action plan we have set out today.

Beauty & Wellbeing delivered 7.4% underlying sales growth with a balance of price and volume growth, with Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing continuing to grow strongly. Personal Care grew 8.0% with 4.0% from price and 3.9% from volume driven by double-digit growth from Deodorants.

Home Care underlying sales were up 5.3% as volume turned positive to 0.4% and price grew 4.8%. Nutrition underlying sales growth was 5.6% with price growth of 9.8% but negative volume of -3.8% as the European market remained challenging.

Ice Cream underlying sales declined -2.8% with a volume decline of -10.1%, due to consumer downtrading and unfavourable weather, particularly in Europe. This was partially offset by price growth of 8.2%.

Emerging markets grew underlying sales 8.3% with volume growth improving to 2.6% and price growth of 5.6%. Latin America delivered underlying sales growth of 14.0% with volumes improving further at 6.2% growth while price growth slowed to 7.4%. South Asia grew mid-single digit with price growth slowing as we reduced prices in Skin Cleansing and Fabric Cleaning. The Chinese market is recovering more slowly than expected and sales declined mid-single digit in the quarter while South-East Asia grew low single-digit.

Developed markets grew 0.8%, driven by price growth of 6.3% with a volume decline of -5.2%. North America and Europe grew low single-digit, driven by price. Pricing remained elevated in Europe with higher exposure to Nutrition and Ice Cream which remain inflationary and are more impacted by consumer downtrading. This resulted in double-digit volume decline in Europe.

Turnover declined -3.8% to €15.2 billion which included a negative currency impact of -8.0% and -0.6% from disposals net of acquisitions.

Capital allocation

On 18 October 2023 we announced the completion of the fourth and final tranche of our €3 billion share buyback programme. The quarterly interim dividend for the Third Quarter is maintained at €0.4268.

Beauty & Wellbeing (20% of Q3 turnover)

Beauty & Wellbeing delivered another strong performance with underlying sales growth of 7.4%, 3.6% from price and 3.6% from volume.

Hair Care grew mid-single digit, mainly through price with strong performances in South Asia and Latin America. Sunsilk grew double-digit helped by a successful relaunch based on a new Activ-infusion formulation with the power of oils, vitamins and proteins. In Japan, we launched the premium Nexxus brand which combines professional salon heritage with molecular protein science.

Core Skin Care grew mid-single digit with strong growth from Vaseline. In North Asia, AHC declined double-digit as we continue the channel reset for the brand.

Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing continued to grow strongly. In Prestige, growth was driven by Dermalogica, Tatcha and Hourglass where we launched a luxurious skin tint that also boosts hydration. In Health & Wellbeing, Nutrafol grew strongly and Liquid IV continued to perform well with range extensions into sugar-free and kids hydration solutions.

Personal Care (24% of Q3 turnover)

Personal Care underlying sales grew 8.0% with price growth of 4.0% and a third consecutive quarter of volume growth, up 3.9%.

Deodorants grew double-digit driven by strong performances in Latin America and Europe. Rexona continued its strong growth trajectory building on the success of its 72 hour sweat and odour protection technology and Axe grew well supported by its new fine fragrance collection.

Skin Cleansing grew mid-single digit with volumes returning to positive growth. Lux grew strongly and in South-East Asia, we relaunched Lifebuoy based on a new formulation with multivitamins to fight dangerous germs. The Dove Personal Care portfolio delivered double-digit growth driven by a strong deodorants performance.

Oral Care grew high single-digit with Pepsodent and Close Up growing double-digit.

Home Care (20% of Q3 turnover)

Home Care underlying sales grew 5.3%, with a return to positive volumes of 0.4% as price growth moderated to 4.8%.

Fabric Cleaning grew mid-single digit driven by Latin America and South-East Asia. In Asia, we relaunched OMO with a formulation that is powered by naturally derived stain removers through our Easylift ™ technology. In Europe, pricing was offset by a volume decline. We introduced the premium OMO ultimate liquids range, delivering our most superior stain removal that attacks the toughest stains while being kinder to the planet.

Fabric Enhancers grew mid-single digit driven by price and strong double-digit growth in Turkey.

Home & Hygiene grew high single-digit with strong growth from CIF and Domestos as our new power foams, which eliminate germs in hard-to-reach places, performed well.

The Air Wellness business declined double-digit as consumer demand remained muted.

Nutrition (21% of Q3 turnover)

Nutrition underlying sales grew 5.6%, with 9.8% price growth, offsetting lower volume of -3.8%, mainly driven by double-digit volume decline in Europe.

Scratch Cooking Aids grew high single-digit driven by price and positive volumes. Growth was driven by South-East Asia as well as Africa where innovations such as Knorr stock cubes fortified with iodine and zinc help address malnutrition.

Dressings grew high single-digit with double-digit price growth. Negative volumes were impacted by challenging market conditions in Europe and lapping a strong comparator in the United States. Hellmann’s grew strongly as we continued the roll-out of our vegan and flavoured mayonnaise range while leveraging the “make taste not waste” campaign.

Unilever Food Solutions continued to perform well and grew high single-digit with positive volume and price.

Ice Cream (15% of Q3 turnover)

Ice Cream underlying sales were down -2.8%, with price growth of 8.2% and volume decline of -10.1%. Volumes were impacted by consumers downtrading to value formats and less favourable weather conditions versus last year’s summer, particularly in Europe.

In-home Ice Cream declined mid-single digit with double-digit volume decline partially offset by price. Our volumes continued to be impacted by lower consumption due to the discretionary nature of the category, with private label gaining share.

Out-of-home Ice Cream grew low single-digit with positive price growth partially offset by negative volume. Magnum’s Starchaser and Sunlover limited edition innovation continued to perform well and in South-East Asia we launched Wall’s bites under the Heart brand, with bite sized portions promoting sharing occasions. Turkey, a large out-of-home Ice Cream market, grew very strongly.

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