Unilever was created in 1930 by the amalgamation of the operations of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie, a merger as palm oil was a major raw material for both margarines and soaps and could be imported more efficiently in larger quantities. In the 1930s the business of Unilever grew and new ventures were launched in Latin America. In 1972 Unilever purchased A&W Restaurants' Canadian division but sold its shares through a management buyout to former A&W Food Services of Canada CEO Jeffrey Mooney in July 1996. By 1980 soap and edible fats contributed just 40% of profits, compared with an original 90%. In 1984 the company bought the brand Brooke Bond (maker of PG Tips tea). In 1987 Unilever strengthened its position in the world skin care market by acquiring Chesebrough-Ponds, the maker of Ragú, Pond's, Aqua-Net, Cutex Nail Polish, and Vaseline. In 1989 Unilever bought Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Fabergé, and Elizabeth Arden, but the latter was later sold (in 2000) to FFI Fragrances. In 1996 Unilever purchased Helene Curtis Industries, giving the company "a powerful new presence in the United States shampoo and deodorant market".The purchase brought Unilever the Suave and Finesse hair-care product brands and Degree deodorant brand.
Global employment at Unilever 2000-2008
Black represents employment numbers in Europe, light grey represents the Americas and dark grey represents Asia, Africa, and Middle East. Between 2000 and 2008 Unilever reduced global workforce numbers by 41%, from 295,000 to 174,000. Note: Europe figures for 2000-2003 are all Europe; from 2004 figures in black are Western Europe. For 2004-2008 Figures for Asia, Africa and Middle East include Eastern and Central Europe. Source: Unilever Annual Reports 2004, 2008
In 2000 the company absorbed the American business Best Foods, strengthening its presence in North America and extending its portfolio of foods brands. In April 2000 it bought both Ben & Jerry's and Slim Fast. The company is fully multinational with operating companies and factories on every continent (except Antarctica) and research laboratories at Colworth and Port Sunlight in England; Vlaardingen in the Netherlands; Trumbull, Connecticut, and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in the United States; Bangalore in India (see also Hindustan Unilever Limited); Pakistan; and Shanghai in China. The US division continued to carry the Lever Brothers name until the 1990s, when it adopted the parent company's moniker. The American unit now has headquarters in New Jersey, and no longer maintains a presence at Lever House, the iconic skyscraper on Park Avenue in New York City.
Unilever's Lipton brand
The company promotes sustainability and started a sustainable agriculture programme in 1998. In May 2007 it became the first tea company to commit to sourcing all its tea in a sustainable manner, employing the Rainforest Alliance, an international environmental NGO, to certify its tea estates in East Africa, as well as third-party suppliers in Africa and other parts of the world. It declared its aim to have all Lipton Yellow Label and PG Tips tea bags sold in Western Europe certified by 2010, followed by all Lipton tea bags globally by 2015. Covalence, an ethical reputation ranking agency, placed Unilever at the top of its ranking based on positive versus negative news coverage for 2007. In 2008 Unilever was honoured at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Achievement in Advanced Media Technology for Creation and Distribution of Interactive Commercial Advertising Delivered Through Digital Set Top Boxes" for its program Axe: Boost Your ESP. Operations
Unilever owns more than 400 brands as a result of acquisitions, however, the company focuses on what are called the "billion-dollar brands", 13 brands which each achieve annual sales in excess of €1 billion. Unilever's top 25 brands account for more than 70% of sales. The brands fall...
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