Jope credits innovation to Unilever’s impressive Q1 performance

By Joseph Ekeng

Unilever’s outgoing CEO, Alan Jope, has attributed the firm’s impressive performance in Q1, 2023 to the company’s innovation which has delivered its strongest line-up of ground-breaking products in years.

According to the CEO, Unilever’s investment in its brands has paid off, as top performing products continue to gain traction and capture the hearts and minds of consumers.

Unilever recorded sales growth of 10.5% in the first quarter of the year. Group turnover for the period reached €14.8bn (£13.12bn), a 7% increase compared to Q1 in 2022.

Some of the major innovations that captured the attention of consumers include nanotechnology from Dove, plastic-free packaging for Persil, the continued premiumisation of Magnum, and new flavour variants for Hellmann’s, all of which the business believes has helped it prosper.

“We have stepped up both the effectiveness of our innovation and the investment behind our brands,” said Unilever CEO Alan Jope of the figures. He added that the investment will continue, with money from cost saving programmes to be reinvested in brands.

The group’s 14 powerhouse ‘billion euro’ brands accounted for 54% of turnover in the first quarter, with underlying sales growth of 12.1%. Persil (known as Omo in some markets), Hellmann’s, Rexona (Sure in the UK) and Lux all delivered a strong performance, though growth was spread across brands and the five business groups of the company.

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“Our billion euro brands grew faster than the rest of the portfolio,” said Jope. “We do continue to prioritise our investment behind our billion euro brands, which are also benefiting from the strongest innovation line-up that we’ve had for many years,” Alan Jope said.

Unilever said it is still on track to deliver €600m of cost savings over the next two years following the introduction of its “simpler, more category-focused operating model” last July. This includes its five core business groups – beauty and wellbeing, personal care, home care, ice cream and nutrition – and tech-focused Unilever Business Operations division. It said today the majority of the savings would be delivered in 2023.

Its beauty and wellbeing, personal care, home care and nutrition divisions each saw turnover of more than €3bn during the quarter, with the ice cream division accounting for €1.7bn.

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Unilever said earlier this year it would be ramping up marketing investment during 2023, after increasing its spend by €500m last year, and has restated its commitment to that investment. “We will continue to price and drive our cost savings programmes in order to allow us to invest behind our brands,” the company confirmed.

“We are continuing to execute well on our strategic priorities,” added Jope. This has included a shift in its brand portfolio into higher growth areas – leading to the sale of the Suave brand in North America, and the introduction of a new operating model designed to unlock faster decision-making.

“Premiumisation is an explicit part of the organic growth strategies of all five business groups,” said Jope. “Prestige beauty and health and wellbeing have now achieved nine consecutive quarters of volume-led, double-digit growth. We aim to continue this momentum,” the company said.


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