LONDON — Unliever wants to focus on “high growth” product spaces and accelerate its sales in mega-markets such as the U.S., India and China as it emerges from a pandemic-ravaged year. The consumer product giant posted a 2.4 decline in revenue to 50.7 billion euros, and a 0.8 uptick in net profit to 6.1 billion euros.
The parent of brands ranging from Ben & Jerry’s and Domestos to Dove, Pond’s and Vaseline saw underlying sales advance 1.9 percent in the 12 months to Dec. 31, and underlying profit reach 9.4 billion euros.
Unilever’s largest division, beauty and personal care, grew 1.2 percent on an underlying basis to 21.1 billion euros, with profits flat.
The company said its prestige beauty business in particular suffered from store closures due to the coronavirus outbreak, although the online channel flourished and now represents 50 percent of business. Prestige beauty, which includes Kate Somerville, Murad and REN, saw sales decline in the low-single digits.
Chief executive officer Alan Jope described the year as “volatile and unpredictable” and said Unilever had, early in 2020, refocused the business on competitive growth, “and the delivery of profit and cash as the best way to maximize value.”
The company also pursued its aggressive sustainability agenda and united under a single corporate entity, Unilever plc, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
It wants to develop its portfolio into “high-growth spaces, and position Unilever in the categories that will drive future growth. This will be our guiding strategy behind the choices we make for organic investment and for our acquisitions and disposals,” Jope said.
The company will also accent e-commerce, look to digitize distribution and use data efficiently to glean consumer insights.
It will also put the focus on its largest and most robust markets, “accelerating” in the U.S., India and China, which now represent 35 percent of turnover. It also plans to leverage its strength in emerging markets.
“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,” Jope said.
He added that 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.”