Unilever achieves 2.9% growth in full year sales, plans review of global tea business

UK – Multinational consumer goods company, Unilever has released its financial results for the full-year 2019 which shows an underlying sales growth of 2.9% and a turnover increase of 2%.

The growth was led by a strong performance in Home Care and 5.3% increase in emerging markets grew driven by performance in Asia/AMET/RUB, despite a slow end to the year in West Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.

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During the period, Unilever’s business in Latin America returned to growth while its performance in Africa declined. Performance in developed markets also declined with Europe lapping a very strong ice cream season from the previous year.

The company also noted that there was a significant slowdown during 2019 in South Asia softening performance in China.

While parts of Latin America have been volatile, Unilever said that it recorded signs of improvement in Brazil. South East Asian markets maintained good growth while developed markets, in particular Europe, remained challenging.

The company’s turnover increased by 2% which included a positive 1.5% impact of currency related items and a negative net acquisitions and disposals impact of 2.3%, mainly driven by the disposal of spreads.

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Unilever’s foods & refreshment business delivered a 1.5% growth in sales with volumes down 0.2%. Growth was recorded in its ice cream business, price-led growth in teas and a return to growth of its dressing business in US.

Unilever has also announced that it is undertaking a review of its global tea business as the company continues to evolve its portfolio to higher growth spaces.

Unilever has a long-established position as the biggest tea business in the world with brands such as Lipton, Brooke Bond and PG Tips; and has expanded into the premium, fruit and herbal market in recent years.

However, the company says that sales of traditional black tea, the largest segment of the category, have been in decline in developed markets for several years due to changing consumer preferences.

The strategic review will consider all options for Unilever’s tea business and is expected to conclude by mid-year.

Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO commented: “We are now stepping up execution against our fundamental drivers of growth.

“These are to: increase penetration by improving brand awareness and availability; implement a more impactful innovation programme; improve our performance in faster growing channels; drive purpose into all our brands; and fuel growth through cost savings.

“We are continuing to evaluate our portfolio and have initiated a strategic review of our global tea business.

In 2020, Unilever expects its underlying sales growth to be in the lower half of the multi-year 3-5% range and will be second-half weighted.

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