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Inside our markets: Unilever in the Philippines

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As one of the fastest-growing FMCGs in the region, and with a domestic market that boasts a Unilever product in 9 out of 10 homes, Unilever Philippines is thriving, thanks to popular brands and purpose-led initiatives. We take a closer look at what’s powering this growing success story.

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How has Unilever in the Philippines grown in recent years?

Unilever Philippines was registered in 1927 and has grown to become a regional powerhouse over the last few years.

It is currently the third fastest-growing FMCG in Asia Pacific, both in terms of value and volume growth.

Nationally, the business is ranked fifth for value growth (according to a June 2023 consumer study of FMCG manufacturers in the Philippines) and is a market leader in both the Ice Cream and Nutrition sectors.

However, it is in Beauty and Wellbeing that Unilever Philippines is truly making its mark, in part thanks to the success of its post-wash products (conditioners).

Aerial view of the new Cavite factory

What is driving growth?

The success of Unilever Philippines echoes that of the country itself, which ended 2022 with one of the fastest growth rates in the region, according to McKinsey research, and a GDP rise of 6.4% in the first quarter of 2023.

This upward trajectory has been fuelled in part by ‘revenge buying’ as consumers make up for lost purchasing time following the Covid restrictions.

The return of local and international tourism has also played a role in this post-Covid bounce-back.

In terms of production growth, a recent €80 million investment in the Cavite factory site will power a 15% rise in the manufacturing of key products, including two hair products, Sunsilk and Creamsilk.

The team behind the Unilever Philippines new powerhouse factory in Cavite

What are Unilever’s most popular brands in the Philippines?

In Kantar’s Brand Footprint report, Surf was selected as the most chosen home care brand in the Philippines, while Sunsilk, Creamsilk and Dove all came in the top ten in the Health and Beauty category. Dove Hair is in its second year of growth and Sunsilk is leading in the shampoo category.

In Nutrition, Knorr was featured as one of the country’s top ten most-chosen food brands and continues to be used to make many popular Filipino dishes.

How are our brands bringing their purpose to life in the Philippines?

Unilever Philippines adheres to the Filipino tradition of ‘malasakit’, a social value which demonstrates genuine concern for others. To this end, the business strongly champions diversity and inclusion, both as an employer and through its brands.

In Nutrition, this malasakit mindset is reflected in many brand-led campaigns aimed at achieving Unilever’s Future Foods commitment to making good food accessible and affordable for everyone.

Knorr, for example, has established key partnerships with the Filipino government and NGOs to help parents prepare nutritious, affordable meals for their families. So far, the Knorr Nutri-Sarap education programme has helped reduce malnutrition rates for children under five and continues to reach out to more communities with the help of Unilever employee volunteers.

In Home Care, Surf is supporting women-led businesses through its online Surf Wais University, which provides free training in essential business skills.

What makes this market unique?

Unilever Philippines’ approach to production and sales has been optimised to meet the country’s unique needs.

For example, in order to support Kabisig (small business) owners in its network, Unilever Philippines has introduced the Super!Store programme which provides free training in basic business management skills such as accounting and stock control.

Another example can be found in production. Over 90% of what Unilever Philippines sells is manufactured locally rather than imported. This choice has led to multiple benefits, including shorter supply chains, a reduction in emissions linked to transport and the creation of direct and indirect employment opportunities across the local value chain.

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