The UK is a major operational centre for the giant Anglo-Dutch FMCG company Unilever, home to one of the group's two corporate centres, as well as two world-leading research centres. Unilever UK is one of the group's four biggest regional subsidiaries, and was where founder William Hesketh Lever's original detergent business was first founded at the end of the 19th century. Over the years, what were once several separate trading units - Lever Bros, Lever Faberge, Birds Eye Walls - have been gradually amalgamated and some heritage businesses sold. In addition to its main international brands, the UK arm of Unilever still manages several "local jewels", the company's term for brands with special regional appeal but limited international exposure. Perhaps the most notable is laundry detergent Persil (sold in most of Unilever's other markets under a different name), still the local leader in the UK and Unilever's top-selling brand in Britain with sales of around £200m in 2017. Close behind is fabric conditioner Comfort (approx £182m). Unilever's global deodorant Axe is sold here under the name Lynx and Rexona as Sure; ice cream is marketed in the UK under the Wall's banner and in Ireland as HB. Other local jewels are mostly in the food and beverage sector. PG Tips is Britain's best-selling tea (sales of approx £111m in 2017), partnered in Ireland by Lyons tea. In 2017, the group acquired premium herbal tea brand Pukka. Local food specialisties include Pot Noodle snack pots (£103m in 2017) traditional Bovril beef extract, Marmite savoury spread and Colman's mustards & sauces. For more than 100 years, the group was also the local leader in margarine with a portfolio led by Flora. That business was sold in 2018 following a steep decline in sales. A succession of different CEOs have led the UK business since 2012 before moving up the corporate ladder. Current EVP & general manager is Sebastian Munden. Statutory accounts for 2017 showed turnover of almost £1.9bn. See also other Unilever group and brand profiles on Adbrands.
Capsule checked 23rd October 2018
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Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Oct 2018: Unilever abandoned a plan to transfer its main corporate base to the Netherlands following opposition from several of its biggest institutional shareholders. The Anglo-Dutch group has been attempting to simplify its structure. Currently it still operates as two separate companies, Unilever plc in London and Unilever NV in Rotterdam, which between them share ownership of the group's various international operating businesses. It said earlier this year it would eliminate the plc entity, which is quoted in the UK, and consolidate all activities under the Dutch entity, quoted on Holland's much smaller stock exchange. However shareholders objected to the proposal, not least because the company's UK listing would be eliminated. Unilever's board finally capitulated. "We recognise that the proposal has not received support from a significant group of shareholders and therefore consider it appropriate to withdraw," it said in a statement. Nevertheless, "the Board continues to believe that simplifying our dual-headed structure would, over time, provide opportunities to further accelerate value creation and serve the best long-term interests of Unilever."
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Sep 2017: Unilever expanded its tea portfolio with the acquisition of UK-based premium organic range Pukka Herbs. No price was disclosed. Pukka is expected to report sales this year of around £30m, up 25% year-on-year. Unilever’s Refreshment President Kevin Havelock said: "Pukka has strong values and a clear purpose that aligns fully with our own sustainable growth model. There's a clear strategic, philosophical and cultural fit for us."
Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Sept 2015: American marketer Gina Boswell, currently Unilever's EVP personal care North America, will transfer to London next week to become general manager of the group's UK & Ireland business. She succceeds Graeme Pitkethly who is moving up to group CFO.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Jul 2015: Ads Of The Week: "Summer of Love / Hate". Love it or hate it? Here's Adam&Eve DDB's new campaign for Unilever's Marmite savoury spread, once again mining that brand's long-established hate or love concept. It's a truly bizarre concoction, just like the brand it represents, but we're rather fond of that little Marmite hate headbanger.
Adbrands Weekly Update 26th Jun 2014: Unilever announced the promotion of Amanda Sourry, chairman of Unilever UK for the past four years, to EVP, global haircare, reporting to personal care divisional president Dave Lewis (also her predecessor as UK chairman). She is replaced at Unilever UK by Graeme Pitkethly.
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