From the first branded soap in the 1800s and our first purpose-built research lab in Port Sunlight in 1911, to addressing today’s global sustainability issues, innovation has always been at the heart of our business. It’s how we progress. It’s at the core of our business strategy.
210 tonnesof plastic recycled per year by Vegetarian Butcher
When you use one of our products, you can be sure that there’s an innovation or two in there – we have over 20,000 patents. We also lay claim to some innovations you might find surprising: in the 1980s, for example, we launched the very first home pregnancy test in the UK. We also invented fish fingers – launching them into to UK in 1955. These are not produced under our brands anymore, but we have kept the same passion for creating new innovations.
Products, ingredients, processes, packaging… we always look to improve for our customers and for the world we live in. For example: our Vegetarian Butcher brand has a 100% recycled tray. Sounds straightforward – however, this represents a huge step forward in packaging sustainability and will lead to the brand recycling more than 210 tonnes of plastic per year back into its packaging.
Lipton’s packaging is now 100% rPET (recycled plastic) – it uses previously used plastics (including bottles) which might otherwise have been waste and turns them into Lipton rPET bottles. In 2020 alone, that translated into 25,000 tonnes of recycled plastic for Lipton bottles.
Our vision is to innovate boldly for people and for the planet. Here are a few highlights from some of our best-known brands.
1883 – Sunlight soap launches in the UK: it contains copra or pine kernel oil to help it lather more easily than traditional soaps made of vegetable fats. We still use natural ingredients like lemons, lime, vinegar, green tea, aloe vera and cucumber.
2020 – Sunlight and Quix in Vietnam and Chile are the first household cleaning products in the world to use a new biotech surfactant that is renewable, biodegradable and ultra-mild on hands.
1873 – The first Knorr dried soups were launched across Continental Europe and almost 40 years later, the bouillon cube arrived – meaning there was no longer any need to make stock from scratch.
2020 – Knorr launches its first ever salt-free stock cube, re-imagining the way we think about rich flavour. Developed at the Hive, our global foods innovation centre, this innovation is a core element of our Future Foods commitments.
1894 – Lifebuoy launches and is the first soap brand in the world to contain carbolic acid, giving it its distinctive red colour and medicinal scent. (Carbolic acid is no longer used in the production of Lifebuoy.)
2021 - Lifebuoy’s scientists harness the power of silver with a breakthrough patented technology especially designed to stabilize silver in soap to deliver the benefits of one of nature’s most powerful anti-bacterial ingredients.
1957 – the Dove Beauty Bar launches, revolutionising every day beauty by providing the first alternative to soap that was less drying to skin.
2020 – more skin technology innovation: Body Wash launches – a cruelty-free, plant-based moisturiser expertly reformulated using Unilever R&D’s advanced technology to offer instantly soft skin and lasting nourishment. And it comes in 100% recycled plastic bottles.
How can businesses best engage with consumers in an ever-changing digital landscape where commerce, community, culture and content converge? This question was at the heart of a feature panel discussion at South by Southwest. Unilever Chief Digital and Commercial Officer Conny Braams shares her takeaways from the mainstage.