Below is a look at the company's 2019 highlights, recent acquisitions, best-selling brands and latest innovations.
- Alan Jope, chief executive officer
- Graeme Pitkethly, chief financial officer
- Marc Engel, chief supply chain officer
- Sunny Jain, president, beauty and personal care
- Sanjiv Mehta, president, Unilever, South Asia and chairman and managing director, Hindustan Unilever
- Nitin Paranjpe, chief operating officer
- Aviance, Axe, Brut
- Caress, Dove, Pond’s
- TRESemmé, Vaseline, Caress
- Clear, Degree, Dermalogica, Dollar Shave Club
- Hourglass Cosmetics, Lever 2000, Lifebuoy
- Lux, Madam C.J. Walker, Nexxus
- Noxzema, Nyakio, Hourglass Cosmetics
- Kate Somerville, Living Proof, Nubian Heritage
- Murad, Pears, REN
- Seventh Generation, SheaMoisture, Simple
- St. Ives, Suave, Sunsilk
- Tigi, Quala, VO5
- Dove Foaming Hand Wash
- Dove Whipped Body Cream
- St. Ives Facial Mists
- Vaseline Clinical Care
- Dove Derma seriesDove Facial Cleansing series
- ApotheCare Essentials
- Hijab Fresh
- Korea Glow
- Pure DermPurifi
Against a backdrop of “widespread economic and geopolitical uncertainty” and currency depreciation in key markets, Unilever experienced a 5% slip in overall sales. Beauty and personal care sales also dipped a modest 0.3%; however underlying sales grew 3.1%, thanks to skincare and skin cleansing gains that were partly offset by a slowdown in deodorants and oral care products. In an effort to bolster the category, Unilever went on a tear of acquisitions. The company finalized ownership of French derma-cosmetic brand, Garancia; acquired a 75% stake in Italian personal care brand Equilibra; and obtained the beauty & personal care and home care brands of Quala, a Latin American consumer goods company; Schmidt’s Naturals, a Portland, OR, beauty and personal care company; and Sundial Brands, a New York-based haircare and skincare company distinguished for using culturally authentic ingredients in its brands which include SheaMoisture, Nubian Heritage, Madam C.J. Walker and Nyakio.
Driven by the credo “Beauty that cares for people, society and our planet,” Unilever’s Beauty & Personal Care division is its largest segment and accounted for 40% of the company’s total turnover and 33% of its operating profit in 2018. With profits held steady by solid performances from brands like Sunsilk, TRESemmé, Signal, Lifebuoy and Vaseline, the company’s prestige business also helped “premiumize” its portfolio, led by brands including Ren, Dermalogica and Hourglass.
At the start of 2018, Alan Jope, previously president, Beauty & Personal Care, took over the helm as CEO from Paul Polman, who retired from the position after 10 years. The company also appointed Sunny Jain president, Beauty & Personal Care, in March.
Unilever also continued to work on improved ecological responsibility. In October, the giant brand manufacturer signed a three-year collaboration agreement with Veolia to develop technologies to improve waste collection and recycling infrastructure, and to help create a circular economy for plastics waste with work initially beginning in India and Indonesia. The partnership ties into Unilever’s 2017 commitment to ensure all its plastic packaging would be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The work will focus on material collection, which will help channel recycled content back into the value chain.
The company developed new packaging solutions with less plastic, better plastic and no plastic.
For example, REN launched a sea kelp and magnesium body wash in a bottle made from 100% recycled plastic, with 20% from recovered ocean plastic. Simple launched biodegradable face wipes made from renewable plant fibers and sustainable wood pulp.
On the formulating front, Unilever declared its support for a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics in collaboration with animal protection leader, Humane Society International. Shortly thereafter, its largest personal care brand, Dove, gained PETA cruelty-free accreditation, with more brands to follow.
News of Note in 2019
In the spring, Unilever began global trials of its Loop waste-free shopping system whereby premium durable packaging is delivered directly to the consumer, returned and refilled. The project fulfills a reduction in the company’s reliance on single-used plastic and also comprises an aspect of its “circular” material aims. REN Clean Skincare, Love Beauty and Planet, Love Home and Planet and Seventh Generation will test run new reusable packaging made from aluminum and glass. Dove, Degree and AXE will test a premium, refillable deodorant stick called minim that’s made from compact and sustainable stainless steel. Depending on use, the product will last on average one month, with the packaging designed to last at least 100 cycles.
In June, Microsoft announced a partnership with Unilever to create a new X-box personal care range under the Lynx brand, to be launched exclusively in Australia and New Zealand.
Unilever also added to its Prestige beauty portfolio with the acquisition of niche, J-Beauty skincare brand Tatcha. Founded in 2009 by Victoria Tsai in San Francisco with an innovation center in Japan known as the Tatcha Institute, Tatcha is described as a modern skincare brand rooted in classical Kyoto rituals.
This May, the rumor mill shifted into high gear when word spread that Unilever could be in pursuit of dropping $1 billion for Drunk Elephant, a “clean” skincare brand with a cult following. The unconfirmed report was bolstered by Unilever’s activity in global start-ups, namely in Australian skincare company Dr Roebuck’s and in Plum the first cruelty-free and vegan brand from start-up Pureplay Skin Sciences.
Just last month, Unilever announced that, ahead of its 2020 goal, it had achieved full renewable energy across five continents, with its factories, offices, R&D facilities, data centers, warehouses and distribution centers—all now powered by 100% renewable grid energy.
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