Unilever has reported a better-than-expected return to growth in its third quarter, with underlying sales rising by 4.4%.
The company witnessed accelerated growth compared to its second quarter drop of 0.3%, driven mainly by its hand and home hygiene products, as well as elevated demand for food consumed at home, in particular for its Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice creams.
In the three months to the end of September, Unilever reported a 2.4% decline in turnover to €12.9 billion, with underlying sales in its food and refreshment unit growing 3.7%.
Unilever says its results reflect the resilience of its portfolio and agility in responding to changing consumer and channel dynamics as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with volume-led growth at 3.9% for the quarter.
The company’s food service and out of home ice cream businesses continued to decline with many channels still fully or partially closed, but at lower levels compared to the second quarter. However, double-digit growth of Unilever’s in home ice cream – led by brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum – more than offset the decline in its out of home ice cream sales.
Developed markets grew 3.1%, led by ongoing strength in its key North America market, while Europe saw a mixed picture on growth and a challenging pricing environment. Underlying sales in emerging markets grew 5.3%, as China’s recovery continued, and India and Brazil returned to growth.
Like Nestlé, Unilever also witnessed a similar positive trend in its online channels with its ecommerce business growing 76%.
The company says it has made good progress in integrating its Horlicks business and that it is continuing to work on implementing the separation of its tea businesses which saw mid-single digit growth.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope said: “The environment we are operating in will remain unpredictable in the near term, so we will continue to maintain the speed and agility of our response. Our focus remains volume-led competitive growth, delivering absolute profit and free cash flow.”
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