UK – In a year punctuated by market volatility due to the impact of Covid-19, British multinational consumer goods company managed to record underlying sales growth of 1.9% in its full-year 2020 results.

In a statement, Unilever revealed that its underlying sales grew across Unilever’s Asia/AMET/RUB and Americas segments last year, by 0.4% and 6.2% respectively, while Europe witnessed a decline in underlying sales of 1%.

The company further noted that its ecommerce grew by 61% in 2020 as consumers turned to online purchases in an effort to observe Covid-19 regulations that curtailed social interactions.

The owner of Ben & Jerry’s reported that its food and refreshment unit grew its full-year underlying sales by 1.3%, with ‘double-digit’ growth in Unilever’s retail foods business.

Meanwhile, the company’s plant-based brand The Vegetarian Butcher grew over 70%.

With extended closures of out-of-home channels, Unilever’s food solutions declined by 30% but ice cream – which accounted in part for Unilever’s flat first-quarter results – grew slightly overall as the company shifted resources towards the in-home business.

Tea saw ‘low-single-digit’ growth and Unilever CEO Alan Jope said that the company “continues to work on separating out the tea business”, in the wake of a strategic review process announced early last year.

Unilever reported turnover of €50.7 billion for 2020, representing a fall of 2.4%, primarily driven by a negative impact of 5.4% from currency-related items.

The business also generated underlying operating profit of €9.4 billion and free cash flow of €7.7 billion, an increase of €1.5 billion

In its last quarter, the company delivered underlying sales growth of 3.5% – in line with estimates, according to Reuters.

The results are Unilever’s first since the company completed the unification of its group legal structure, moving to a single parent company.

Moving into 2021, Unilever plans to continue with its plan to accelerate in the US, India and China and leverage on its emerging markets strength.

“We believe we can bring sharper focus in those geographies and build even stronger positions. There is also significant opportunity beyond these markets and we will continue to build on our strong operating businesses in the world’s fastest growing economies,” Unilever said.

In his concluding remarks, CEO Alan Jope said: “While volatility and unpredictability will continue throughout 2021, we begin the year in good shape and are confident in our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.”

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