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Our Story

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.

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210 tonnes of 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 where, within a decade, they accounted for 10% of the UK’s fish consumption.

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.

Did you know...

Unilever invented fish fingers. We launched them in the UK in 1955.

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.

Sunlight

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 animal 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.

Learn more here

Learning from nature

Knorr

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.

Learn more about Future Foods

A box of Knorr Veggie 0 Salt Bouillon cubes

Lifebuoy

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.

Learn more about Lifebuoy

Illustration of hands held up high

Persil/OMO

1903– the world’s first soap powder containing a bleaching agent is launched: Persil.

2020 – using 50% less plastic, 100% recyclable bottles and 70% less water during production, a 3X concentrate formulation that attacks stains and reduce plastic waste is launched: OMO Dilute at home

Learn more about Omo

Omo refilling tubs

Magnum

1989 – Magnum launches: it has a unique chocolate coating with (its now famous) signature crack when you bite into it.

2020 - Magnum’s Pints range transforms previously unrecyclable plastic waste into a valuable resource and the plastic waste can be re-processed infinitely.

Find out more

Magnum Almond and white tubs

Dove

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.

Find out more about Dove’s initiatives

Dove body wash tubs laid out on display
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