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What’s behind Unilever’s first quarter volume growth?

10 May 2024

Magnum’s new mood-inspired ice cream flavours - Chill, Euphoria and Wonder - unwrapped on a serving dish and ready to eat.

Unilever’s financial results for the first quarter of 2024 – announced on 25 April – show our volume growth has continued to improve after the step-up in Q4 last year. Here’s a look at some of the brands, categories and innovations driving that momentum.

Our results for the first quarter of 2024 show underlying sales growth of 4.4%, which is consistent with the growth we delivered in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Importantly, underlying volume growth increased to 2.2%, building on 1.8% in Q4 2023.

Our Power Brands – which now contribute around 75% of our turnover – led the way with underlying sales growth at 6.1%, driven by a strong contribution from volume at 3.8%.

“We are laser-focused on volume growth as a key indicator of the quality of our topline performance, as we deploy the Growth Action Plan,” says Chief Financial Officer Fernando Fernandez.

Here’s a look at the highlights across each of our five business groups.

Beauty & Wellbeing

Beauty & Wellbeing continued its strong performance, with 7.4% sales growth driven by volume at 5.6%.

In core Hair Care, we saw balanced growth across our largest brands, with Sunsilk, Clear, Dove and TRESemmé all contributing well. Core Skin Care delivered volume-led growth with another very strong performance from Vaseline, supported by its premium Gluta-HYA range.

Prestige Beauty grew double-digit, mainly from volume, led by Tatcha, Hourglass and Living Proof. Health & Wellbeing also delivered another quarter of double-digit, volume-led growth, with standout performances from Nutrafol and Olly. Nutrafol made good progress in the core range while extending into skin care, through a daily supplement which addresses the root causes of acne. Olly performed well on the back of a very successful entry into China.

The continuing double-digit growth of Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing combined, for 13 successive quarters, is successfully reshaping our portfolio and increasing our exposure to the critical US market and in particular to selective premium and online channels.

Personal Care

Personal Care grew 4.8%, with 1.4% in volume, which was a good performance against a particularly high prior year comparator, especially in North America.

Deodorants grew double-digit with strong volume. Dove’s growth was supported by the launch of whole-body deodorants. Rexona and Axe also contributed well, on the back of the continued momentum of the multi-year 72-hour non-stop odour and sweat protection platform and the new Axe Fine Fragrance range.

While Skin Cleansing overall was flat, with a small increase in price offset by a decline in volume, Dove grew both volume and price, with the launch of a premium range of Dove body wash in the US.

Oral Care continued to deliver good growth, driven by positive volume and price, with strong double-digit growth from Closeup.

Home Care

In Home Care, volume was up strongly at 4.3%. This step-up from the fourth quarter was significant and broad-based across Fabric Cleaning, Fabric Enhancers and Home & Hygiene.

Fabric Cleaning volume growth was mid-single digit with improved contribution from Europe. We launched the new innovation Persil Wonder Wash in Europe in April.

Fabric Enhancers and Home & Hygiene both delivered mid-single digit growth, led by volume. Cif and Domestos both performed strongly with the successful Domestos Power Foam being extended into new markets and new variants.


Growth in Nutrition was 3.7%; however, volume was down -0.4%. Volume sequentially improved but was still negative in Europe, partially affected by the impact of SKU reductions.

Dressings was up mid-single digit with positive volume growth. Hellmann’s was supported by good progress in its plant-based range, new variants of flavoured mayo and a fourth consecutive year in the US of the Super Bowl Make taste not waste campaign.

Scratch Cooking Aids also grew well as Knorr launched superior bouillon and seasoning variants and extended its ‘Eat for Good’ campaign behind locally relevant dishes. Unilever Food Solutions grew double-digit with strong volume.

Horlicks extended its market share in India and grew well, with positive volume and price driven by sustained market development, both in the kids and adult segments.

Ice Cream

Ice Cream delivered 2.3% underlying sales growth, which comprised 3.2% price and -0.9% volume.

In-home was flat while out-of-home grew mid-single-digit, in both cases driven by price being partially offset by a decline in volume. The underlying price growth also reflects action taken to mitigate increased costs of critical ingredients such as cocoa and sugar.

Significant operational improvements have been put in place in Ice Cream, in preparation for the upcoming Northern Hemisphere summer season.

A snapshot of the markets

Emerging markets grew underlying sales 5.4%, with 3.9% from volume. Latin America, Turkey and Africa continued their momentum from 2023 and delivered strong sales growth with positive volumes. Sales in China grew mid-single digit with good volumes, particularly in Unilever Food Solutions. South Asia growth was driven by volume.

Underlying sales in developed markets grew 3.0% with volumes almost flat at -0.3%. North America delivered positive volume growth at 1.4%. In Europe, volume declined -1.5%, but sequentially improved with a return to volume growth in the UK, France and Eastern Europe, as price growth continued to moderate from the peak in Q2 2023.

A good first quarter gives us confidence, but it is only one quarter. We have much more work to do.

Fernando Fernandez, Unilever Chief Financial Officer
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