LONDON – Unilever plc, parent of brands including Dove, Vaseline and Sunsilk, saw sales in its personal care division climb 7.2 percent to 5.14 billion euros, or $5.50 billion, in the three months to March 31, due to new launches and add-on products. Stripping out the impact of favorable exchange rates, sales were up 3.1 percent.
Group turnover in the first quarter of fiscal 2017 was 6.1 percent higher than the corresponding period last year, at 13.3 billion euros, or $14.23 billion. The figure was boosted by positive currency impact, and sales were up 2.9 percent on an underlying basis, due to higher prices. Sales volumes in the three-month period were down 0.1 percent.
Chief executive officer Paul Polman said that the personal care division continued to “grow the core” while expanding in high-growth segments and building in premium positions. In skin care, Baby Dove was introduced to the U.S. and the U.K. and is now present in 14 markets, while the new Lifebuoy with Activ Silver formula for enhanced germ-protection was rolled out across Asia.
In the hair category, growth was driven by Sunsilk, which Unilever said was helped by variants that meet the needs of Muslim consumers, and the expansion into natural propositions that has driven increased penetration among Millennials. The company said its prestige business continued to perform in line with strategy.
Overall, Polman said the company’s first quarter showed growth once more ahead of its markets. “This reflects our continued investment in both innovations and brand support, and reconfirms the strength of our long-term sustainable compounding growth model,” he said. “The actions we are taking keep us on track for another year of underlying sales growth ahead of our markets, in the 3 to 5 percent range.”
As reported, the company is raising its dividend 12 percent, reflecting confidence in its outlook.
Earlier this month, Unilever completed the results of a wide-ranging strategic review and decided to spin off or sell its spreads division, where growth has been stagnating for years. The review came in the wake of a takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz that was immediately rebuffed by Unilever.