Unilever Reports Fastest Underlying Sales Growth In Nine Years

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Unilever has recorded its fastest underlying sales growth in nine years for 2021 and says the “acceleration” of its operating performance continues.

The owner of Ben & Jerry’s, Marmite and Hellmann’s reported turnover of €13.1 billion in Q4, a substantial increase of 8.4% on the previous year. The company’s full-year turnover stood at €52.4 billion, up 3.4% compared to 2020, while underlying sales grew 4.5%.

The company’s priority markets of China, India and the US grew at 14.3%, 13.4% and 3.7%, respectively.

Unilever says that it has continued to re-shape its portfolio into “high-growth spaces, acquiring in prestige beauty and functional nutrition” and agreeing the sale of its tea business.

Last month, the company announced major changes to its organisation in order to make it simpler and more category-focused. The five business groups it announced will each be responsible and accountable for their strategy, growth and profit delivery, and for running their businesses in all geographies.

Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, commented: “The major challenge of 2021 has been the dramatic rise of input costs. We responded with pricing actions, delivering underlying price growth of 2.9% for the year, accelerating to 4.9% in the fourth quarter, with full-year underlying operating margin down 10bps and underlying earnings per share up 5.5%.

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“We are focused on driving faster growth from our strong portfolio of brands and markets, and recently announced a major change to create a simpler, more category-focused organisation designed to further improve performance. In 2022, we will manage a significant input cost inflation cycle and will continue to invest competitively in marketing, R&D and capital expenditure.”

Looking to the future, Jope said: “We expect underlying sales growth in 2022 to be in the range of 4.5% to 6.5%. Pricing will continue to be strong, with some impact on volume as a result”.

The company expects further high input cost inflation in the first half of 2022 of over €2 billion.