Unilever’s 2019 results on Thursday showed that the consumer products giant is continuing to grow, but not as fast as it would like to and that its beauty ops suffered from the same slowdown.
Group underlying sales growth was just 2.9% while turnover rose 2% to €52 billion. Underlying EBITDA rose to €11.911 billion from €11.471 billion.
At the massive Beauty & Personal Care unit, the company said underlying sales grew 2.6% (clearly lagging the group’s overall growth) to €21.9 billion, with 1.7% coming from volume expansion and just 0.9% from price rises. But the growth figure in Q4 was only a rise of 0.5% to €5.6 billion and while volumes grew, prices dipped slightly. But the full-year underlying operating margin increased by 70bps, reflecting lower overheads and brand and marketing efficiencies as a result of its zero-based-budgeting programme.
By product unit, the prestige brands that have had a bigger presence in the portfolio in recent years continued to deliver double-digit growth, with “strong performances” from brands such as Dermalogica, Hourglass and Living Proof. It also added to its prestige portfolio in the year by acquiring Garancia, a French derma-cosmetic brand, and Tatcha, a “modern skincare brand rooted in classical Kyoto rituals”.
Growth in skin cleansing was held back by price reductions as a result of lower commodity costs, but star brand Dove’s growth “was supported by microbiome-friendly innovations”.
Meanwhile, in skincare, Pond’s and Vaseline “continued to perform well, with on-trend innovations such as Pond’s Glow Up cream”. The company also expanded into new markets with its Simple brand, which is now in 30 countries, including Turkey and the Gulf region.
However, the company said growth was weak in haircare with “high competitive intensity in the growth hotspot of the US”. And in China there was “continued pressure from local players”.
And deodorants delivered broad-based growth, supported by double-digit rises from Dove. It also saw good performance from its Rexona Clinical range, with patented anti-perspirant technology, as well as Dove’s zero aluminium range.