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At a Glance

Uppers

Responsible for over 400 of the world's leading nutritional and healthcare brands

Well-regarded for its efforts in sustainability

Downers

Faces stiff competition from Procter & Gamble

Many employees feel a sense of job instability due to multiple acquisitions and several corporate restructurings

The Bottom Line

An industry leader, Unilever promotes a positive work environment and offers its employees flexible work schedules and great benefits. However, the company expects a high level of performance--not to mention long hours--in return.

About Unilever United States, Inc.

Unilever PLC, along with its Dutch counterpart, Unilever N.V., constitute a global food, personal care, and household products powerhouse. The group's vast portfolio of consumer products includes more than a dozen global brands -- including Hellmann's (mayonnaise), Knorr (soups), Lipton (tea), Axe (deodorant), and Dove (soaps) -- that each ring up more than €1 billion in sales. Unilever's consumer goods are sold in more than 190 countries. Based in the UK, Unilever PLC trades on the London and New York stock exchanges.

Operations

Unilever’s 400 brands are divided into four groups.

The Personal Care product category is led by five billion-euro brands -- Axe, Dove, Lux, Rexona, and Sunsilk -- as well as other household names such as TRESemmé, Signal, Lifebuoy, and Vaseline. It generates around 40% of Unilever’s total sales.

The Home Care segment produces cleaning products of various kinds, led by the billion-euro Dirt is Good (Persil and Omo) and Surf brands, alongside Comfort, Domestos, Sunlight, Cif, Pureit, Blueair, and more. It brings in 20% of overall sales.

The Food category comprises two billion-euro brands, Knorr stocks and Hellmann’s mayonnaise. The pair, which generate two-thirds of the category’s sales, are supported by smaller local brands such as Bango (Indonesia), Maizena (Latin America), Kissan (India), and Robertsons (South Africa). The segment accounts for more than 20% of sales.

The Refreshment category, the smallest at less than 20% of sales, produces teas, drinks, and ice creams. It consists of three billion-euro brands in Heartbrand (which trades under various names in different parts of the world, for instance Wall’s in the UK and Asia), Magnum, and Lipton. Other brands include Brooke Bond and Ben & Jerry’s, as well as premium brands T2, Pure Leaf, and Taj Mahal (tea) and Grom and Talenti (ice cream).

Geographic Reach

Unilever has operations in more than 100 countries and its products are sold in virtually every country in the world. It has 300 factories in nearly 70 countries and a global network of more than 400 warehouses.

Geographically, Unilever’s revenue is highly diversified. The US is its single largest market at around 15% of sales, while the UK and Netherlands (its home markets) generate slightly more than 5% combined. Emerging markets are growing as a percentage of sales and generate around 60% of the total.

Sales and Marketing

Unilever’s customer base consists of super and hypermarkets (50% of sales), drug stores, e-commerce retailers, small stores, and discounters. Its products end up in around 25 million stores globally, of which it serves eight million directly and 17 million indirectly via wholesale and cash & carry. Online delivers around 5% of sales.

Unilever racks up the world’s second-largest advertising spend.

Financial Performance

Note: Growth rates may differ after conversion to US dollars.

Unilever’s revenue growth has struggled to gain traction in recent years -– up one year and down the next -- amid a poor global environment for consumer products and changes in consumption behavior. In fiscal 2017 sales increased 2% to €53.7 billion as modest gains in Personal Care and Home Care were partially offset by unfavorable currency effects and flat to negative growth in Foods and Refreshment. Revenue gains in Personal and Home Care were mostly a result of acquisitions, including Blueair, Living Proof, and Carver Korea. Growth in the Foods segment was inhibited by poor spreads sales while Refreshments contracted due to disposals. Sales from Emerging Markets grew 1 percentage point to 58% of total sales.

Net income grew 17% to €6.5 billion thanks to higher revenue, lower tax due to reform in the US, and a 1.1 percentage-point increase in operating margin. Savings from the ‘5-S’ savings program more than compensated for commodity price increases.

Cash from operations was mostly unchanged at €9.3 billion.

Strategy

Unilever began 2017 by fighting a $143 billion takeover bid from Kraft Heinz (which would have been the largest takeover in industry history, combining dozens of global household names). It reaffirmed its intention to follow its own path to growth as consumer goods companies, particularly those involved in packaged foods, grapple with competitive and pricing pressures and shifts in consumer tastes. The consumer goods industry is rife with consolidation, cost-cutting measures, and an intense focus on core brands.

Since rejecting the Kraft Heinz offer, Unilever has stepped up its cost-cutting efforts. With plans to cut €6 billion from operational costs by 2020, the company has slashed its advertising budget and reduced staff, among other savings initiatives. In addition, Unilever is combining its Foods and Refreshment segments and is re-evaluating its dual-listing N.V./PLC structure. In mid-2018 it completed the divestiture of its spreads business, a historical cornerstone for the company that includes the Flora, Country Crock, and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter brands.

Facing stiff global competition from giants such as Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Mondelez, and of course Kraft Heinz, Unilever is looking to quickly add big names to its stable of brands, a task that is easier to complete through acquisition than internal development. The company is focused on well-known brands or those that appeal to new customer tastes, particularly those of the millennial generation, estimated to comprise nearly 2.5 billion people by 2025. To that end, Unilever has been actively pursuing acquisitions across all its segments.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Unilever makes frequent bolt-on acquisitions to diversify its product portfolio and reach new customers. In 2017 it spent €4.9 billion on acquiring Blueair, Living Proof, Carver Korea, Kensington’s, EAC Myanmar, Hourglass, Pukka Herbs, Weis, Mae Terra, TAZO, Sundial Brands, and Schmidt’s Naturals. Many of these acquired brands champion natural ingredients for the health-conscious consumer.

In 2018 it acquired Quala, a Latin American consumer goods company. Inheriting Quala’s brands will give Unilever an even stronger springboard for growth in Latin America, broadening its offerings in Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Unilever United States, Inc.

700 SYLVAN AVE
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632-3113
Phone: 1 (201) 894-4000

Stats

Employer Type: Privately Owned
Manager: Janet Cimorelli
Vice President: Philip Cohen
Director: Eileen Griffin
Employees (This Location): 1,180
Employees (All Locations): 13,000

Major Office Locations

Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Other Locations

Stockton, CA
Hammond, IN
Englewood Cliffs, NJ
New York, NY