Introduction to Unilever

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Introduction to Unilever

Unilever is a British–Dutch multinational consumer goods company. Its products include foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. It is the world's third-largest consumer goods company measured by 2011 revenues (after Procter & Gamble and Nestlé) and the world's largest maker of ice cream. Unilever is a dual-listed company consisting of Unilever N.V. in Rotterdam, Netherlands and Unilever PLC in London, United Kingdom. Both Unilever companies have the same directors and they operate as a single business. The current non-executive Chairman of Unilever N.V. and PLC is Michael Treschow while Paul Polman is Group Chief Executive. Unilever owns over 400 brands, amongst the largest selling of which are Aviance, Axe/Lynx, Ben & Jerry's, Dove, Flora/Becel, Heartbrand, Hellmann's, Knorr, Lipton, Lux/Radox, Omo/Surf, Rexona/Sure, Sunsilk, Toni & Guy, TRESemmé, VO5 and Wish-Bone. Unilever PLC had a market capitalisation of £27.3 billion as of 23 December 2011, the 18th-largest of any company with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange.

1930 to 2001
Lever House in New York City, which was the United States headquarters of Unilever from 1952 to 1997 Unilever was founded on 1 January 1930 by Antonius Johannes Jurgens, Samuel van den Bergh and William Hulme Lever, 2nd Viscount Leverhulme. The amalgamation of the operations of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie (a 1927 amalgamation of Anton Jurgens Margarinefabrieken N.V. and Samuel van den Bergh) made sound commercial sense, as palm oil was a major raw material for both margarines, and soaps, and could be imported more efficiently in larger quantities. The initial harvesting of palm oil was from British West Africa, from where news reports seen back in England showed the workers abroad in favourable conditions. In 1911 the company received a concession for 750,000 hectares of forest in Belgian Congo, mostly south of Bandundu, where a system of forced labour operated. The subsidiary of Lever Brothers was named "Huileries du Congo Belge". During the great depression in the thirties, the Huileries sharply decreased the fee for gathered oil nuts, while the government of Belgian Congo strongly increased taxation. This resulted in social unrest in 1931, which is known as the Revolution of the Pende, in which eventually more than 400 members of the Pende tribe were killed. In the 1930s the Unilever business grew and new ventures were launched in Africa and 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 Jefferson J. 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 (merged from Chesebrough Manufacturing and Pond's Creams), 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. In 1997 Unilever sold the speciality chemicals businesses National Starch & Chemical, Quest, Unichema and Crosfield to ICI for US$8 billion.. The US division carried the Lever Brothers name until the 1990s, when it adopted that of the parent company. The American unit 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 established a sustainable agriculture programme in 1998....
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