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Strong sales growth and continued progress against strategy


Average read time: 9 minutes

Today, we announced our full-year results for 2022:

Multi product illustration

Statement from Alan Jope

"Unilever delivered a year of strong topline growth in challenging macroeconomic conditions. Underlying sales growth was 9.0%, driven by disciplined pricing action in response to high input cost inflation. Growth was broad-based across each of our five Business Groups, led by strong performances from our billion+ Euro brands. Despite sharp rises in material costs, we have prioritised stepping up our brand and marketing investment. Underlying operating margin was delivered in line with our guidance, with underlying operating profit up for the year.

“We have made further progress in the transformation of Unilever and continued to deliver against our strategic priorities. Our new operating model is already unlocking a culture of bolder and more rapid decision-making with improved accountability. We continue to improve our growth profile, with the sale of the global Tea business and the acquisition of Nutrafol. We are increasingly realising the benefits from the reshaped portfolio, accelerated savings delivery and improved execution.

“There is more to do, but the changes we have made mean that we start 2023 with momentum, setting us up well for delivering another year of higher growth, which remains our first priority.”


In 2022, we carefully balanced price growth, volume and competitiveness to navigate through the high cost inflation environment. We will again deliver strong underlying sales growth in 2023, with improving volume performance and competitiveness as the year progresses. We will continue to price and drive our cost savings programmes, in order to allow us to invest behind our brands and deliver improved margin.

We expect cost inflation to continue in 2023. Our expectation for net material inflation (NMI) in the first half of 2023 is around €1.5 billion. We anticipate significantly lower NMI in the second half, with a wide range of possible outcomes, though we do not expect cost deflation.

In the first half, underlying price growth will remain high, and volume growth will be negative. Volume will improve as price growth softens, but it is too early to say whether volume will turn positive in the second half. We expect 2023 underlying sales growth to be at least in the upper half of our multi-year range of 3 – 5%.

We will deliver only a modest improvement in underlying operating margin in the full year, as we plan for another year of increased investment, and with cost inflation remaining high, underlying operating margin will be around 16% in the first half.

Unilever overall performance

Underlying sales growth stepped up to 9.0% in 2022, led by pricing, in the face of significant input cost inflation across our markets. Price growth has sequentially improved in each of the past eight quarters, reaching 13.3% in the fourth quarter and taking the full year underlying price growth to 11.3%. This had, as expected, some negative impact on volumes, which declined 2.1%.

Beauty & Wellbeing grew underlying sales by 7.8% driven by price. Volumes were slightly positive, helped by another year of strong growth in Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing, which now account for more than €2.5 billion of turnover. Personal Care underlying sales were up 7.9%, driven by strong pricing. Volumes grew in Deodorants, but declined in other categories. Home Care, which was particularly exposed to rising input costs, delivered the highest price growth and some volume decline, leading to underlying sales growth of 11.8%.

Nutrition grew 8.6%, led by high price growth of Dressings and a continued recovery of Unilever Food Solutions. Ice Cream improved underlying sales by 9.0%, with strong volume growth in out-of-home channels, benefiting from a good summer season, but not quite compensating for lower in-home volumes.

Emerging markets grew underlying sales by 11.2% with price of 13.5% and volume down 2.0%. South Asia grew strongly through both price and volume. Price growth in Latin America increased to 20.4% with volumes contracting by 4.6%. China declined slightly as it was affected by pandemic-related restrictions, particularly in the second and fourth quarters. South East Asia achieved double-digit price growth with virtually flat volumes. Turkey delivered high single-digit volume growth in a very inflationary environment. Developed markets increased by 5.9%, with 8.4% from price and (2.3)% from volume. Volumes held up better in North America than in Europe.

Turnover increased 14.5% to €60.1 billion, which included a currency impact of 6.2% and (1.0)% from disposals net of acquisitions. Underlying operating profit was €9.7 billion, up 0.5% versus the prior year. Underlying operating margin declined by 230bps to 16.1%. Gross margin decreased by 210bps which reflected €4.3 billion of net material inflation, and increased production and logistics costs that were only partially mitigated by our pricing action and savings delivery.

Brand and marketing investment was stepped up by €0.5 billion in constant exchange rates. This equated to a 10bps contribution to margin in current exchange rates. Overheads increased by 30bps largely due to investments in capabilities to drive growth and increased scale of our Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing businesses.

Capital allocation and operating model

On 22 July and 19 December 2022, we completed the first and second €750 million tranches of our ongoing share buyback programme of up to €3 billion.

The quarterly interim dividend for the fourth quarter is maintained at €0.4268.

Since 1 July 2022, our simpler, more category-focused operating model for Unilever has been in place, organised around five Business Groups and a technology-driven backbone, Unilever Business Operations. We are on track to deliver the new structure within existing restructuring plans, and to generate around €600 million of cost savings over the first two years after 1 July 2022, with the majority in 2023.

Beauty & Wellbeing (20% of group turnover)

Beauty & Wellbeing underlying sales grew 7.8% with 7.5% from price and 0.3% from volume. Growth was price-led in core Skin Care and Hair Care, while it was volume-led in Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing.

Hair Care grew mid-single digit, helped by strong performances of Sunsilk and Nexxus. Growth was driven by Latin America, India and Turkey, partially offset by Europe and China where sales were affected by pandemic-related restrictions. Skin Care grew low-single digit. South Asia and South East Asia delivered strong growth, helped by Lifebuoy and rollout of the Vaseline premium Gluta-Hya innovation, while sales of AHC declined in North Asia.

Prestige Beauty delivered another year of double-digit growth, with strong contributions from Paula’s Choice and Hourglass which continued its expansion into China, as well as Living Proof,whichentered into the bond-building premium hair care category. Liquid IV and Olly drove strong double-digit growth in Health & Wellbeing. The acquisition of Nutrafol, a leading provider of hair wellness products,was completed in July.

Underlying operating margin declined 340bps due to input cost increases and the biggest step-up in brand and marketing investment across the five Business Groups.

Personal Care (23% of group turnover)

Personal Care underlying sales grew 7.9% with 12.1% from price and (3.7)% from volume. The volume decline was higher in Skin Cleansing which was particularly affected by the commodity cost inflation.

Deodorants performed strongly, delivering double-digit price and positive volume growth. This was supported by continued premiumisation and strong innovations, such as the 72-hour protection technology from Rexona. Skin Cleansing grew high single-digit with strong price increases in response to the input cost inflation. While this led to a volume decline, volumes held up better in North America, supported by premium innovations such as the Dove deep moisture body wash with microbiome nutrient serum that delivers a further improved skin care experience.

Oral Care achieved price-led growth, helped by the relaunch of Pepsodent with increased naturals and efficacy credentials in South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East, partially offset by a sales decline in Europe. Sales of Dollar Shave Club declined during the year, and an impairment charge was recognised related to the business.

Underlying operating margin declined 170bps as a result of an input cost driven gross margin decline.

Home Care (21% of group turnover)

Home Care underlying sales grew 11.8%, with 15.9% from price and (3.5)% from volume. Price growth was led by Fabric Cleaning which faced the highest commodity cost impact.

Fabric Cleaning grew high double-digit while holding volumes almost flat. This was driven by very strong performances in South Asia, Brazil, Turkey and Vietnam with modest sales growth in Europe and China. The growth, which was broad-based across formats, benefitted from our continuous market development of the liquids market, with particularly strong contributions from OMO and Radiant.

Fabric Enhancers grew high single-digit with modest volume decline. Comfort delivered high growth in Latin America, South Asia and Turkey, but declined in Europe where consumers reduced their spending in the category. Home & Hygiene grew slightly, with high single-digit volume losses across most markets, while Air Wellness declined in 2022.

Underlying operating margin declined 260bps driven by gross margin contraction as a result of significant input cost inflation despite having the highest price growth across all Business Groups.

Nutrition (23% of group turnover)

Nutrition underlying sales grew 8.6%, with 10.9% from price and (2.1)% from volume.

Scratch Cooking Aids, the biggest category, delivered mid single-digit growth. South East Asia, Africa and Latin America performed strongly, led by Knorr, while China declined high single-digit as a result of pandemic-related restrictions particularly in the second and fourth quarters.

Dressings had a strong year with broad-based, double-digit price growth and a modest volume decline, supported by continued high growth of Hellmann’s, particularly in the United States. Despite a decline in China, Unilever Food Solutions delivered double-digit growth and almost recovered to pre-pandemic volume levels, helped by extended distribution and consumers eating out-of-home more frequently.

Underlying operating margin declined 170bps due to an input cost driven reduction in gross margin.

Ice cream (13% of group turnover)

Ice Cream underlying sales grew 9.0%, with 9.7% from price and (0.7)% from volume. Strong volume growth in out-of-home was offset by volume declines in in-home, reversing some of the pandemic-related trends.

Out-of-home Ice Cream achieved double-digit price and high single-digit volume growth. The business continued to recover sales lost during the pandemic but is yet to return to 2019 volumes. The in-home business grew mid single-digit despite mid single-digit volume declines. Volumes were particularly weak in the fourth quarter as a result of lapping strong in-home sales that were boosted by lockdowns in the prior two years.

Magnum, Cornetto and Carte d’Or delivered positive volume growth, supported by new variant innovations such as Magnum Remix, which has launched across 65 countries, and new Cornetto variants in Turkey, South East Asia and China.

Underlying operating margin declined 220bps primarily due to high input cost inflation which affected gross margin.

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