From Dove soap to Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Unilever N.V. manufactures more than 400 different food and wellness product brands that are used by two billion people worldwide, every day. Along with its UK-based counterpart,
, the Netherlands-based Unilever N.V. operates jointly as the Unilever Group, which has a single board of directors and one set of financial statements. Unilever is one of the top manufacturers of dressings, savory, and spreads with brand names Hellmann's, Knorr, and Ragú. Its other top products include ice cream (Breyers,
Ben & Jerry's
), tea (Lipton), and soaps (Dove, Lux). Unilever traces its roots back to 1872.
The company boasts a vast products portfolio consisting of 400 health and wellness brands, which include: Knorr, Hellmann's, Lipton, Becel/Flora (Healthy Heart), Rama/Blue Band (Family Goodness), Wall's/Algida (Heartbrand), Omo, Dove, Lux, Rexona (including Sure and Degree), and Axe/Lynx, among others.
Unilever group is organized based on its four main product groups. Roughly 35% of its revenue is generated by personal care products, which include skin and hair care products, deodorants, and oral care products. Another nearly 30% comes from the food product segment, which consist of snacks, soups, bouillons, sauces, margarines, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and spreads.
Refreshment products bring in nearly 20% of sales, and include ice cream, tea beverages, weight-management products and nutritionally enhanced staples for sale in developing markets. The home care product division brings in the remainder of revenue, and consists of a variety of cleaning products, powders, liquids and capsules, and soap bars.
Following five years of sales growth, Unilever Group's revenue in 2014 fell by 14% to $58.9 billion, with sales declines from all product segments. Two-thirds of the drop was driven by a 7% decline food product sales, mostly from lagging spread sales in the European and North American markets. The group's refreshment product sales also fell by 4%, further hurting the top line. The company's Personal Care segment fell the least, as its Dove brand remained strong.
Declining revenue caused the group's net income to drop by 6% to $6.29 billion, after two years of profit growth in 2012 and 2013.
Operations provided $6.74 billion, or 22% less cash than in 2013, partly from lower earnings, but mostly due to a combination of negative cash flows from working capital and from an elimination of profits from discontinued brand operations.
To free up resources and focus them on growing divisions and product lines, Unilever Group has made a series of brand divestitures in recent years. In In 2013, as part of its strategy of making Foods fit for growth, the company sold off its flailing Wish-Bone, Skippy, and Unipro brands. Between 2011 and 2013, the company made a series of brand acquisitions to strategically expand its product portfolio, buying Alberto Culver, Sara Lee, Kalina, and Toni & Guy.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In 2016 Unilever acquired start-up razor manufacturer Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion in cash. Founded in 2011, Dollar Shave Club built its business selling inexpensive men's razors exclusively through digital commerce sites. The acquisition bolsters Unilever's presence in the online sales space; the company traditionally sells its products through brick-and-mortar retailers, where profit margins can be smaller.