* Plans to continue tweaking portfolio with additions,
* Turnaround in spreads is long journey but shows early
* Targeting savings of 500 million euros next year
By Martinne Geller
LONDON, Dec 5 Consumer products giant Unilever
Plc aims to cut the number of individual
products it sells by 30 percent by the end of 2014 to become
more efficient and navigate a global economic slowdown it admits
it was slow to confront.
The Anglo-Dutch maker of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Lipton tea
and Dove soap also said on Thursday it is cutting about 2,000
jobs and will continue to adjust its portfolio.
"The global economy has calibrated down about 1-1.5 percent
and we probably should've done a better job seeing it coming,"
said Unilever Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman in a
presentation in London that was broadcast over the internet.
"We're using that opportunity to step up the performance and
drive new energy into the organization."
In October, Unilever posted slower sales growth for the
third quarter after demand was hurt by the devaluation of some
emerging market currencies and aggressive promotions in the
United States by rival Procter & Gamble Co.
"We lost our competitiveness," Polman said.
Unilever intends to save 500 million euros ($683
million)next year, after cutting about 2,000 jobs this year,
improving its supply chain and making various processes more
DEALING WITH YOUR OWN DECK
Unilever is shifting more of its focus to its larger brands,
including the 15 that each generate over 1 billion euros in
annual revenue. Polman said it will continue to sell non-core,
underperforming brands and buy attractive bolt-on brands when
"The overall portfolio is perhaps not as robust yet as some
of our competitors, but you have to deal with the deck of cards
you've been given," Polman said.
Chief Financial Officer Jean-Marc Huet said most brands to
be sold will be from Unilever's food business, which includes
Knorr soups and Hellmann's mayonnaise, rather than the personal
care side, which makes Radox soaps, Lux shampoo and Vaseline.
Last week, media reports said Ireland's Kerry Group
was the leading bidder for Unilever's Peperami sausage business.
Recent deals include the divestments of Skippy peanut butter
and Wishbone salad dressings.
IMPROVING THE SPREAD
Unilever is not just buying and selling brands. It is
working to improve its ailing spreads business, which has
suffered for years due in part to a consumer perception that
margarine is less natural than butter.
"We are taking the bull by the horns," said Antoine de
Saint-Affrique, president of Unilever's food business. "We are
seeing green shoots ... but it's going to be a long-term
He declined to say whether there was a deadline for turning
around the business, or quantify the size of its current sales
Unilever has launched new margarine products in Germany, the
United States and Britain that highlight naturalness and
"After more than 15 years of share declines ... in the last
few months, we're actually seeing our share at least go in the
right direction," said Polman, noting that it was still very
"Having said that, we will look at all options to be sure
that it gets the return that this business deserves and we will
be very open-minded about that," he said.
Analysts have speculated about whether Unilever would sell
the spreads business, or separate the food business from the
higher-growth, higher-margin personal care business.
The company is also working to boost sales by focusing on
higher-growth markets in Africa and Latin America, new channels
like drug stores and convenience stores, and developing more