Skip to content

Unilever Global Change location


1950 – 1980 – Building our brands

What happened in the 1950s?

A street in Sierra Leone

As we move into the 1950s, the development of new mass markets for consumer goods - including Africa and Asia - provide opportunities for expansion. Unilever's United Africa Company continues to grow, producing goods for sale in the newly independent African states, which helps create new local manufacturing industries. Post-war prosperity in Europe, spurred by the start of the European Community, leads to a consumer boom and rising standards of living.

1950 - Unilever increases its focus in science in technology and nutrition

A young girl using science equipment

As new scientific advances come thick and fast, Unilever establishes Port Sunlight Research, a research division with responsibility for both UK and Dutch laboratories. From this, a nutrition research group launches in the Netherlands which later becomes the Unilever Food & Health Research Institute - a centre of excellence in nutrition.

1954 – Unilever launches Sunsilk shampoo

An advert for Sunsilk shampoo

In 1954, Sunsilk shampoo is launched in the UK and will become a leading shampoo brand - by 1959 it is available in 18 countries worldwide. In 2005, the brand's reach has stretched to 40 countries. Seda and Sedal, in Brazil and Mexico, are also part of the Sunsilk brand.

1955 - The first TV commercial is aired in the UK by Gibbs

An advert for Gibbs SR toothpaste

On the 22 September Unilever airs the very first advertisement on UK commercial TV, for Gibbs SR toothpaste. The initials 'SR' are short for sodium ricinoleate, an ingredient effective in the treatment of gum infections. It is promoted by the company as 'an entirely new and revolutionary product'.

1955 - Post-war rationing leads the way for new foods like the fish finger

An advert for Birds Eye fish fingers

Fish fingers are introduced in the UK and within a decade they account for 10% of British fish consumption. During the 1950s new types of food - most famously the fish finger - are developed as a direct response to the need for nutritious food that makes use of ingredients available in the wake of post-war rationing.

1955 - Dove launches first soap bar in the US

Dove soap packaging

In 1957, Dove launches a revolutionary new beauty cleansing bar, with its patented blend of mild cleansers and moisturising cream. The beauty bar claims to rinse cleaner than soap, leaving skin clean, soft and smooth. Today, Dove has grown into one of Unilever's biggest global brands, offering a range of products: body washes, hand and body lotions, facial cleansers, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners and hair styling products.

1959 - Margarine packaging moves from paper to plastic

A tub of Flora margarine

Unilever launches its first margarine in a tub, replacing the traditional block wrapped in greaseproof paper, with Blue Band in Germany, followed by Flora in Britain.

1960 - What happened in the 1960s?

A group of women testing hair products

The 1960s brings optimism and new ideas as the world economy expands and standards of living continue to rise. As a result, Unilever expands and diversifies through innovation and acquisition, setting up advertising agencies, market research companies and packaging businesses. By the mid-60s, a restructure increases opportunities to grow brands internationally.

1960 - Becel is launched as a 'health' margarine in response to medical support

A tub of Becel margarine

Becel, the pioneering 'health' margarine, is launched after the medical community asks Unilever to develop a cholesterol-lowering food product. Initially, it's only available from pharmacies.

1965 - With interest in packaging growing, Unilever forms the 4P group

A full recycling bin

Unilever forms its own specialist packaging business, the 4P Group, turning an internal service provider into a profit-earning business. It is in effect a co-ordination of Unilever's interest in packaging, printing, plastics and paper, based in Germany.

1965 - Cif scouring cream is launched in France

Cif logo

Cif - a scouring cream capable of cleaning modern household surfaces such as stainless steel and enamel without scratching - launches in France. The product is later launched as Jif in the UK, with production out of Port Sunlight, and made available in Europe.

1967 - The Unilever U becomes the corporate logo

The original Unilever logo

Late to the idea of corporate styling, Unilever establishes the Unilever U as our corporate logo in 1967. It seeks to reflect Unilever's durability and internationally minded and dynamic character. Its solid twin pillars on a common base suggest the idea of the two united parts of the business, Ltd and NV, and the two Us superimposed on one another symbolise the 1930 union. To those unfamiliar with the company structure and its history, it makes sense as the first letter of the company name.

1969 - Unilever creates first-ever colour TV commercial in UK

An advert for Birds Eye frozen peas

In 1969, Unilever airs the UK's first colour TV commercial - an advert for Birds Eye peas.

1970 - What happened in the 1970s?

A Persil van

During the 1970s, hard economic conditions - including high inflation in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis - lead to flat sales. The growth of large retailers including supermarkets starts a shift in negotiating power away from manufacturers. So Unilever continues to build consumer goods businesses in other sectors such as transport and packaging and has a major thrust into North America. Fortunately, the subsidiary United Africa Company yields large profits in oil-booming Nigeria, helping balance out the costs of businesses in Europe and the US.

1971 - Lipton International turns Unilever tea business into one of the largest in the world

An advert for Lipton's tea

Lipton International is acquired in 1971 and Unilever's tea business becomes one of the largest in the world. Founder Sir Thomas J. Lipton bought his first tea estates in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) in 1890, in order to help source and sell his own tea. He arranged the packaging and delivery of tea directly to his Lipton markets to keep costs low.

1971 - Austria launches revolutionary dental care product Mentadent

A collection of Mentadent products

Mentadent is launched in Austria as a revolutionary gum health brand. It continues to be a leading dental care product in Austria and across the world.

1972 - Impulse deodorant is launched in South Africa

A collection of Impulse deodorants

Impulse is launched in South Africa in 1972, where it holds a third of the perfume deodorant market by 1979. By 1985 it is sold in 30 countries. A combination of a deodorant and a perfume, it is aimed at young consumers looking for an inexpensive and popular fragrance.

1973 - United Africa Company becomes UAC International

An advert for UAC

Unilever's subsidiary, the United Africa Company, becomes UAC International, having expanded since its inception in the 1920s to trade in 43 countries.

1973 - Frigo ice cream is acquired in Spain

Frigo vendors on a beach

Frigo ice cream is acquired in Spain. This becomes part of the Unilever Heartbrand unveiled in 2003. The Heartbrand operates under different names in different markets (Wall's in the UK and in most of Asia, Algida in Italy, Langnese in Germany and Ola in the Netherlands).

1977 - Unilever presence is firmly established in Europe

A group of employees in hi-vis jackets and hard hats

By 1977, across the nine members of the European Economic Community, Unilever employs nearly 177,000 people in 200 offices and factories, investing in fixed assets at a rate of about UK £30 million a year and spending about UK £1 billion on supplies.

1978 - Unilever acquires National Starch and increases presence in the US

Two Unilever scientists in a lab analysing data

Signalling intentions to increase its presence in the US, Unilever acquires National Starch, a leading producer of adhesives, starch and speciality organic chemicals. It's the largest acquisition by a European company in the US at this time.