Unilever splits from ice cream impacting 7,500 jobs

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever has announced steps to accelerate its Growth Action Plan through the separation of its Ice Cream division, which includes Ben & Jerry's
Unilever has announced steps to accelerate its Growth Action Plan through the separation of its Ice Cream division, which includes Ben & Jerry's

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Unilever’s ice cream division will become a standalone business, as part of its Growth Action Plan to sharpen its portfolio.

Unilever is separating from its ice cream brands, which comprises five of the top 10 global best sellers, including Ben & Jerry’s, Wall’s and Magnum.

This forms part of a plan to accelerate its Growth Action Plan (GAP) announced last October.

The Unilever Board has stated it is ‘confident’ that ‘Ice Cream’ will be better delivered under a different ownership structure, due to its ‘distinct characteristics’. This includes a supply chain and point of sale that support frozen foods, a different channel landscape, more seasonality and greater capital intensity.

As a standalone business, the Ice Cream’s management team will have operational and financial flexibility to grow its business, and allocate capital and resources.

The split will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. A demerger is the most likely course of action; however, Unilever says it will also be considering other options.

Together, the ice cream brands turned over €7.9bn in 2023, however Unilever says the separation of the business will be offset following the launch of a productivity programme and see Unilever with ‘a structurally higher margin’ overall.

Commenting, Ian Meakins, chair of Unilever, said: “The Board is determined to transform Unilever into a higher-growth, higher-margin business that will deliver consistently for all stakeholders. Improving our performance and sharpening our portfolio are key to delivering the improved results we believe Unilever can achieve.”

The programme is predicted to deliver cost savings of €800m over the next three years and should see complexity and duplication reduced through tech-led interventions, process standardisation and operational centres of excellence.

The proposed changes will be subject to consultation but are estimated to impact around 7,500 (predominately office-based) roles. Restructuring costs, meanwhile, are likely to be around 1.2% of group turnover for the next three years.  

Meakins added: “The separation of Ice Cream and the delivery of the productivity programme will help create a simpler, more focused, and higher performing Unilever. It will also create a world-leading ice cream business, with strong growth prospects and an exciting future as a standalone business.”

Meanwhile in other news, Diageo has named a new chair, as Javier Ferrán steps down.

Related topics Frozen Business Leaders Operations

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