Our financial results for the first half of this year – which delivered consistency in challenging conditions – show how we’re continuing to realise the benefits of the strategic choices we’ve made in the Unilever Compass.
The trend towards healthier products and lifestyles has been gathering pace for some time; and next to mindfulness, exercise and eating well, people are increasingly turning to vitamins, minerals and supplements (VMS) to take a more holistic approach to their wellbeing.
Improving people’s health, confidence and wellbeing through brands that are powered by purpose and innovation has always been a priority for Unilever. And as part of our Compass strategy, we have identified Health & Wellbeing as a key growth space of the future. We spoke to Jostein Solheim – CEO, Health & Wellbeing – to find out more about it.
What does the Health & Wellbeing landscape look like?
The category has gone through a fundamental shift, moving from a problem/solution industry dominated by pharmaceutical companies to one offering proactive solutions for immunity and mental, physical and emotional health.
There are four main trends driving category growth. The first is consumers who are shaping the category – digitally minded Millennials and Gen Zers who no longer see health as the absence of illness and disease but as a lifestyle goal to pursue. The second is that products are becoming more about benefit-led personalisation rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The third is the overlapping of what once used to be separate categories: VMS, beauty, personal care and foods. And lastly, the rise of the conscious consumer and the rapid shift to digital is really encouraging a sense of community and lifestyle.
How big is this business for Unilever?
This is a huge opportunity. Turnover for Health & Wellbeing is already more than €1 billion, with over 50% USG each year since 2019. And since 40% of the business is online, we can drive economies of scale in our digitally focused marketing model and expand each brand’s in-store presence – a real strength of Unilever’s.
With the global market estimated to be worth more than €160 billion, our focus is on the US, China and Europe – geographies where the industry is sizable and growing. Vitamins and dietary supplements, which constitute about two-thirds of the market, and functional hydration fit best with our strategy.
With our portfolio of insurgent brands, our focus is on market development and playing in high-growth benefit spaces that are ripe for disruption.
What brands are in our portfolio?
We have a range of fast-growing, science-driven brands that are reinventing the industry.
Liquid I.V. is a functional hydration brand that has disrupted the market and is the No.1 powdered hydration brand in the US.
OLLY, the No. 1 Gummy Vitamin brand in the US, makes vitamins and supplements that deliver ‘real deal’ benefits. The brainchild of Eric Ryan, OLLY is on a mission to make taking good care of yourself ‘truly delightful’.
SmartyPants Vitamins is a leader in the industry when it comes to transparency around science and ingredients and is the No.1 multivitamins brand and No.1 gummies brand on Amazon. SmartyPants Vitamins has provided life-changing nutrients to over 27 million women and children around the world via its ten-year partnership with the Vitamin Angels charity.
Onnit, best known for its Alpha Brain product, is the No.2 nootropics/brain supplements brand in the US. Onnit supplements help optimise the human body and are built on the best nutrients and scientifically proven ingredients.
Nutrafol is the No.1 dermatologist-recommended hair growth supplement brand in the US and offers a range of clinically tested, physician-formulated products designed to help thinning hair and hair health for women and men at various stages in their lives.
Equilibra, an Italian company founded in 1987, has always been dedicated to people who want to take care of their wellbeing and beauty in a natural way, combining quality and innovation.
Welly is bringing happiness and ease to healing with their disruption in the first aid category. Their recent expansion with over-the-counter Welly medicine and dietary supplements includes the categories Pain & Fever, Cough & Cold, Digestive, Sleep, Allergy, and Mood.
What was the thinking behind our acquisition of Nutrafol?
Nutrafol strengthens our portfolio in a new benefit space for us, while playing at the high-growth intersection of VMS, beauty and hair, which is where our expertise can really add value. Unlike traditional hair growth products that focus on a single cause, Nutrafol takes a whole-body approach that uses medical-grade nutraceutical ingredients to target the multiple root causes of hair loss and hair problems, including hormones, stress, lifestyle, metabolism, nutrition and ageing.
Unilever’s topical hair science capability and Nutrafol’s credentials in hair wellness from within are a great combination.
When buying VMS products, what do people look for?
Not only is science important; being transparent is also critical for consumers. Nutrafol, for example, has clinical studies to prove efficacy, and transparency is at the heart of SmartyPants.
We know people want purpose-driven brands and that is at the core of our offering. For example, Liquid I.V.’s give-back programme has donated 25 million servings of hydrating products and OLLY supports mental wellness in schools through the JED Foundation, a US non-profit organisation.
And finally, social proof and endorsement. People are online, researching and looking for evidence on the science, reviews, recommendations and expert opinions. The power of being a digitally led brand is the power to educate in a complex category. ONNIT is a great example with its Instagram tribe nearing a million followers.
What does the future hold?
It is expected that most category growth will be driven by gummies and powders, which is 80% of our current US business.
In the next few years, we want Health & Wellbeing to make an even more material contribution to Unilever’s overall business through organic growth in the US, international expansion in China and Europe, and new M&A opportunities.
We see a continued focus on benefit-led spaces, such as sleep and stress, functional hydration, beauty from within, kids’ health and nootropics. All of which we are uniquely placed to do well in.
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