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Affordability & accessibility

We are making our products accessible and affordable for people, wherever they live.

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A key focus of our business

Ensuring accessibility and affordability of foods containing good fats, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, vitamins and minerals – whether fresh, dried or frozen – is crucial. This was outlined by Amanda Sourry, former President of Unilever's Food Category, in a three-point plan to feed 10 billion people by 2050.

We are addressing affordability and accessibility by ensuring our products are represented across the full price and package size range (from sachets to family packs), especially in emerging markets like South East Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Across all our brands, we set strategic pricing guidelines, including pricing below the market average to reach lower income groups. For launches, we conduct extensive research to evaluate affordability, pricing and purchase intention among low-income consumers. We also recently launched a holistic cost-managing platform – allowing us to minimise or completely offset changes, such as ongoing currency fluctuations or material inflation. This means we can avoid passing extra costs onto consumers.

In South Africa, for example, we offer smaller packs at the right price point across our range of soups, bouillons and seasonings. Knorr dry soups are available at only R2 and Royco bouillon at R1 (€0.07). We sell small, top-up packs through local Spaza shops, so people can buy these at the end of the month when money is tight. And in India, Annapurna Atta is the only brand offering pre-packed, 100% wholewheat flour in a 500g size, making the product accessible to people on lower incomes.

Poverty shouldn't mean poor food

We specifically pay attention to making sure products that meet our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) are affordable and accessible, so they reach those who need them most. We have committed that 60% of our total portfolio will meet HNS in 2020. Such an ambitious target commits us to making healthy food affordable and accessible for all consumers.

Fortified foods are an integral part of this. Last year, 13% of our total food and beverage sales by volume contributed to recommended daily intakes of at least one of five key micronutrients (iodine, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and iron). This translates into 138 billion servings, 44% of which are sold in developing and emerging countries where malnutrition is most prevalent. By 2022, we will provide more than 200 billion servings with at least one of the five key micronutrients. As part of this, we have pledged to address affordability and accessibility.

We promote affordable, nutritious products

We offer discounts, price promotions and coupons on nutritious products, including tea which is an affordable, healthy beverage sold in many markets. In India, for example, our tea is available at only Rs1 (€0.013). A cup of loose tea can cost even less, from Rs0.8 to Rs1.5 depending on the brand – mass market BB Taaza or premium Brooke Bond Taj.

To boost affordable, healthy products around the world, we engage with shoppers through promoters and dieticians. In Gulf countries, for example, we promote green tea consumption in supermarkets and hypermarkets. In Poland in 2017, shoppers were given the opportunity to ‘Taste for free’. This involved buying and trying any Lipton green or herbal tea, and then getting their money back by registering on a dedicated campaign website. In addition, to encourage people to try green tea, we included Lipton Green Citrus 25 teabags for free in packs of Lipton Yellow Label 120 teabags.

We increase affordability by selling through discount retailers. In Europe, we are the biggest branded supplier to discount supermarkets in the divisions in which we compete. Globally, we sell over €2 billion through discount channels, and a significant portion of this is through our Foods & Refreshment business. Going forward, we will build our presence in discount retailers.

Our brands give people tips on how to eat balanced diets on a budget. In the Philippines, for example, we developed a book with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute to showcase nutritious recipes using Knorr. Each recipe costs only around €1 to make and feeds a family of five. And Unilever Food Solutions – our dedicated foodservice business – runs programmes for chefs, covering 200 million dishes a day.

Improving access to remote areas

For all brands, we take into account distribution. We found that in some countries, traditional distribution channels weren’t reaching people in remote areas. So we developed a network of small-scale retailers to help us improve access to healthy, affordable products. At the same time, we believe this will enable 1 billion more people to enjoy our brands, providing us with a vital opportunity for sustainable growth.

For example, our unique Shakti (or ‘power’) model in India involves dedicated rural women being trained to distribute Unilever products where they live and in neighbouring villages. As our brand ambassadors, they spread messages of health and hygiene, as well as healthy, affordable products to low-income families, living in remote areas. We are now adapting this model in several South-East Asian, African and Latin American markets.

We also share our model and explore further solutions with stakeholders. In 2017, for example, we held a joint workshop on sustainable nutrition with the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, in which we discussed increasing access to sustainable, affordable and healthful food.

Developing nutritious products is an important first step for food companies. However, ensuring they are available in affordable formats for people on low-incomes, and accessible to people no matter where they live, is just as important. We want to offer nutritious food for all people...

Frank Haresnape, Vice Presidents Foods, Africa
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