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Gloucestershire Business News

Marmite divorces Magnum amid questions for Wall's future

Gloucester's Wall's factory will see new owners by the end of next year after Unilever made a move this week to sell off its ice cream business, which accounts for 16% of the British global food giant's sales.

With 7,500 jobs being headlined as on the line for redundancy from this global restructure, Unilever has given no detail as yet on whether Gloucester's key food sector business is directly affected by the planned changes.

The news comes in stark contrast to Unilever's recent announcement to add four new products and flavours to its Wall's range, including a vegan raspberry swirl version of the UK favourite Magnum. In February this year, reported how Wall's had seen a 7% sales growth  across 2023 thanks to increased food prices.

With 6,000 staff in the UK working for Unilever through Wall's, the Gloucester factory is one of the biggest in Europe and has been producing ice cream for 64 years, churning out 145m litres per year.

London-based Unilever, which was founded in 1929, plans to split off its ice-cream division as part of an accelerated 'Growth Action Plan' (GAP) which was launched last autumn.

A statement from Unilever said: "The Board believes Unilever should be increasingly focused on a portfolio of unmissably superior brands with strong positions in highly attractive categories that have complementary operating models. This is where the company can most effectively apply its innovation, marketing and go-to-market capabilities."

Ice cream has a very different operating model, it added, and as a result the board has decided that separation "best serves the future growth of both Ice Cream and Unilever".

Ian Meakins, Chair of Unilever said: "The Board is determined to transform Unilever into a higher-growth, higher-margin business that will deliver consistently for all stakeholders. Improving our performance and sharpening our portfolio are key to delivering the improved results we believe Unilever can achieve."

Separating ice cream, together with the GAP, will help create a "simpler, more focused, and higher performing Unilever. It will also create a world-leading ice cream business, with strong growth prospects and an exciting future as a standalone business."

Hein Schumacher, CEO of Unilever added: "Under the Growth Action Plan we have committed to do fewer things, better, and with greater impact. The changes we are announcing today will help us accelerate that plan, focusing our business and our resources on global or scalable brands where we can apply our leading innovation, technology and go-to-market capabilities across complementary operating models."

"Simplifying our portfolio and driving greater productivity will allow us to further unlock the potential of this business, supporting our ambition to position Unilever as a world-leading consumer goods company delivering strong, sustainable growth and enhanced profitability.

"We are committed to carrying out our productivity programme in consultation with employee representatives, and with respect and care for those of our people who are impacted."

● It is reported elsewhere that the job losses will be mainly across global office staffing. Unilever has 6,000 UK staff and 127,00 worldwide.

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