- Turnover increased 12.3% to €12.8 billion including a positive currency impact of 10.6%
- Underlying sales growth at 2.8% with emerging markets up 5.4%
- Underlying volume growth at 0.9% and pricing up 1.9%
Commenting on the results, Unilever CEO Paul Polman says: “We have had a strong start to the year, helped by favourable currency movements and an improvement in underlying sales. This is despite a continued challenging trading environment in many parts of the world. The actions we have been taking to put us on track for higher levels of growth are starting to pay off.
“Despite high levels of currency and commodity volatility, we are now starting to see more tailwinds than headwinds in our markets, and expect our initiatives to deliver a further improvement in volume growth in the remainder of the year.”
While Europe markets remain weak, the modest price-driven pick-up in North America has been sustained. Emerging markets have seen divergent trends. There has been some improvement in India and more stable conditions in China, but a deterioration in Brazil and Russia.
Underlying sales growth was broad-based across the four divisions with varying contributions from volume and price. Emerging markets grew by 5.4%, largely driven by price. In developed markets, North America again grew while in Europe volume improved strongly but pricing was down across all divisions.
Beauty & Personal Care
Beauty & Personal Care growth improved but remains below historic levels in competitive markets. We have a strong innovation pipeline and are confident that we will see an acceleration in the second half of the year.
Deodorants performed well, supported by the newly introduced dry sprays in North America and the launch of the new Axe Black variants. In hair Dove saw continued success of its Advanced Hair series and TRESemmé launched the Perfectly (Un)done collection in the US. In France, we are introducing Zendium, a premium toothpaste that boosts the mouth’s natural defences. And in March we announced the acquisition of the iconic REN Skincare brand.
Foods & Refreshment
Good volume-driven growth included strong sales in the run up to Easter which was earlier than last year. Savoury performed well, helped by the success of cooking ingredients in emerging markets and soups in Europe. We are introducing more natural and healthier products such as our new bouillon cubes in Indonesia.
Our biggest brand, Knorr, launched its ‘Flavour of Home’ campaign, which celebrates the role that flavour plays in the brand, attracting over 40 million views in the first week. Hellmann’s drove growth in dressings as we rolled out the successful squeezy packaging into North America.
Spreads performance improved in the quarter, helped by the earlier Easter and good growth in emerging markets but with a continued drag from market contraction in the US and Europe.
A solid start to the year on top of a strong comparator was driven by innovations behind our premium ice cream brands, such as Magnum Pink and Black variants, Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Core range in Europe as well as new flavours of Breyers Gelato in the US. At the same time, we are addressing the value segment with the launch of Cornetto Mini in India and the €1 Cornetto in a number of countries.
Leaf tea growth was underpinned by Lipton’s new packaging and communication, and we are building the green tea segment with new variants in India, Russia and the Middle East.
Growth in Home Care was broad-based. Having established strong top-line momentum in recent years, laundry growth in the first quarter was lower as we balanced market share gain and profitability. While Omo launched new products with enhanced cleaning technology in Brazil and Vietnam, the brand continues to grow well in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and with the new pre-treaters in Brazil.
The strong performance of fabric conditioners was led by the launch of Comfort Intense, a premium super-concentrated product that delivers long-lasting freshness. In household cleaning we took Cif’s improved ‘Power and Shine’ formulation from the UK to continental Europe.