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Unilever CEO says ‘performance needs to improve’ after 2023 results

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Volume sales declined for the ice cream and nutrition divisions. Credit: Unilever
Volume sales declined for the ice cream and nutrition divisions. Credit: Unilever

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Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher said that the firm’s “performance needs to improve” following the announcement of its full year results for 2023.

The multinational, which owns food and drink brands including Wall’s, Hellman’s, Knorr, Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s, saw underlying sales growth of 7% year-on-year. This was made up of a 0.2% rise in volumes, including a 1.8% increase during Q4, and 6.8% price growth.

Meanwhile, group turnover for the year ended at €59.6bn (£50bn), which represents a 0.8% year-on-year decline. Turnover for the ice cream and nutrition divisions of the business was €7.9bn (£6.7bn) and €13.2bn (£11.3bn) respectively.

However, both business units saw declines in volume sales, with ice cream down 6% and nutrition down 2.2%. For ice cream, this contributed to “disappointing​” underlying sales growth of 2.3%, while the nutrition division’s underlying sales increased 7.7%, largely driven by 10.1% price growth.

For the year, the ice cream division’s market share and profitability both declined.

Unilever ‘competitiveness remains disappointing’

Commenting on the results, Schumacher was mixed in his assessment and said the group is ready to act in order to find upgrades.

Today’s results show an improving financial performance, with the return to volume growth and margins rebuilding,” ​he noted.

“However, our competitiveness remains disappointing and overall performance needs to improve. We are working to address this by improving our execution to unlock Unilever’s full potential.”

In October 2023, Unilever set out an action plan for growth focusing on three priorities which Schumacher described as: “Delivering higher-quality growth, stepping up productivity and simplicity, and adopting a strong performance focus.”

Schumacher took on the role of CEO in July 2023 after more than five years at the head of Dutch dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina.

“The new leadership team has embedded the action plan at pace,” ​he continued.

“We have increased investment behind our 30 Power Brands, accelerated portfolio transformation, and are driving a sharper performance focus with clear and stretching targets across the whole organisation.

“We are at the early stages of this work and there is much to do but we are moving with speed and urgency to transform Unilever into a consistently higher performing business.”

In other news, three men who fraudulently supplied a company with £318,347 worth of poultry stolen from 2 Sisters Food Group were sentenced in February 2024.

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