Unilever, owner of Ben & Jerry’s and Hellman’s Mayonaise, has raised its expectations for the rest of the year after strong sales off the back of rising prices.
The conglomerate which deals in everything from beauty products to homeware and nutrition to ice cream, reported underlying sales growth was up 10.5 per cent to almost £10.1bn (€11.5bn) in the first quarter.
The London-listed firm which also makes products such as Domestos bleach and Vaseline, said the seven per cent increase was driven by a 13.3 and 12.6 per cent rise in sales for beauty and personal care products. Home care and ice cream were both up by around eight per cent.
The only area to see a fall in sales on last year was nutrition, down by 4.4 per cent, but still seeing sales growth of almost 12 per cent, to £3bn €3.4bn .
Amid a global rise in inflation and pressures on supply chains, it warned that price growth was still up at around 10.8 per cent, while its turnover had increased to £13.1bn (€14.8bn). In February it announced its annual turnover had soared to £53bn off the back of soaring prices.
Alan Jope, chief executive of Unliver said it had seen “a good start to the year” with sales growth “driven by price growth in response to continued high input cost inflation and an improved volume performance.”
He said Unilever’s growth was “underpinned by strong performances from our billion+ Euro brands” while Unilever has “stepped up” investment in its brands.
“We continue to shift our portfolio into higher growth spaces, with the delivery of another quarter of double-digit sales growth in Prestige Beauty and Health & Wellbeing, and the announced sale of Suave in North America.
“We remain focused on navigating through continued macroeconomic uncertainty and are confident in our ability to deliver another year of strong growth, which remains our first priority.”
Looking ahead to the rest of 2023, Unilever said in the “volatile and high-cost environment, we continue to carefully balance price growth, volume and competitiveness.”
“We now expect underlying sales growth for the full year 2023 to be at least at the upper end of our multi-year range of three to five per cent”.
Unilever and Fundsmith
Earlier this year City investor Terry Smith wrote excoriating review of Unilever’s business performance, a year after he made headlines for criticising its focus on the “purpose” of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.
In his annual letter to shareholders, the Fundsmith chief lists a series of complaints about the consumer goods firm, saying it had failed to engage long-term shareholders, being opaque about transaction costs and allowing investors to “measure annual growth if you could only count to three.”