Apr 23, 2020
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Personal care essentials boom for Unilever in Q1 but prestige beauty lags

Apr 23, 2020

The first quarter saw consumer goods giant Unilever’s business holding up as the company sells many of the essentials that consumers have been buying in still-open stores. 

Handwashing was key for Unilever in Q1

It said on Thursday that Q1 underlying sales were flat while volume growth was 0.2%, but it saw a 0.2% fall in prices. 

In developed markets, its underlying sales growth was 2.8% while emerging markets declined 1.8%. And the company added that acquisitions added 0.6% to its overall turnover figure of €12.4 billion. 

CEO Alan Jope said the firm’s factories have been “running through the many unpredictable challenges in local operating environments across our value chain”. And he added that the group has been opening up new capacity where most needed, such as in hand hygiene and food.

So what happened in the key Beauty & Personal care division? Well, turnover here rose 0.3% to €5.3 billion, with a 0.7% volume rise but a 0.5% price fall.

Growth in key categories was driven by both “consumption and household stocking”.

Skin cleansing saw mid-single-digit volume-led growth as consumers went hygiene-crazy and the firm responded to the need for personal cleaning products to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

Through its Lifebuoy soap brand, it continued to “raise handwashing awareness, introducing Lifebuoy products to 43 new markets, as well as working quickly across brands to expand our range of formats to support the pandemic response”.

But Skincare declined as travel restrictions hurt the Carver portfolio and India was impacted by lockdown conditions. Vaseline continued to perform well, with mid-single-digit growth, and it launched anti-bacterial hand cream in the UK as well as a new Pro Derma Clinical range in China. 

The Prestige portfolio that should be a key growth area for the company was dented by health and beauty channel closures in many markets. 

And while Haircare grew in the US, the lockdown impacted its portfolio in China and in India. Deodorants grew mid-single-digits, with strong performances from the Rexona Clinical range and Dove deodorants.

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