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Gloucestershire Business News

Unilever's sales growth boosted by higher prices

The owner of Gloucester's Wall's ice cream factory saw sales grow by 7% last year.

Unilever, which makes hundreds of household brands from Marmite to Hellman's, has revealed its yearly sales were boosted by higher prices and selling more products.

But the global business said its performance "needs to improve" as inflation has begun to cool.

Total underlying sales grew by 7% in 2023 compared with 2022. This was driven by prices which rose 6.8% over the period while the volume of items sold crept up by 0.2%.

Unilever's nutrition and ice cream brands, such as Magnum, Carte D'Or, Knorr and Marmite, saw the biggest price rises while the volume of sales declined, meaning shoppers were paying more money for fewer items.

Last year, the company said it was focusing on its 30 most profitable brands, which make up three-quarters of its turnover, as part of an "action plan" to boost growth and turn around its financial performance.

Unilever's chief executive officer Hein Schumacher said: "2023 full year results show an improving financial performance, with the return to volume growth and margins rebuilding.

"We are moving with speed and urgency to transform Unilever into a consistently higher performing business."

Charlie Huggins, manager of the Quality Shares Portfolio at Wealth Club, commented: "Unilever's performance in 2023 was uninspiring, with notable weakness in Europe and ice cream, driven in part by market share losses to private label competition.

Unilever's new CEO, Hein Schumacher, recognises that the group could and should be doing better. His 'Action Plan' is designed to reinvigorate performance through more impactful innovation, productivity savings and an improved culture, with an enhanced focus on the top 30 Power Brands.

"The success of this Action Plan is too early to judge, but investors should not expect quick fixes. The plan isn't just about cutting costs and increasing efficiency. It's designed to make Unilever a more innovative business, with stronger, faster growing brands. This requires increased brand and marketing investment, and will not be quick or easy to achieve.

"Overall, there is a lot to like in new CEO Hein Schumacher's Action Plan. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that the environment for Unilever and its peers has become much tougher in recent years."

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