Sales during the quarter grew by 7.0 per cent to reach €10.9bn, which represented underlying sales growth of 4.3 per cent - a figure that takes into account the positive effect of currency translations and other business factors such as divestments.
The figure also reflected the fact that volumes were up by 2.5 per cent during the period while pricing was up 1.9 per cent.
Growth against a challenging backdrop
“We have delivered a good performance which demonstrates that the transformation of Unilever is progressing well; this against a backdrop of rising commodity costs, weak consumer confidence and very competitive markets,” said CEO Paul Polman.
Personal care sales during the quarter grew by 5.3 per cent in organic terms to €3.52bn, now making it the single biggest revenue earning division in the company.
Highlights from the performance included the deodorants category, which was driven by the Dove brand for both men and women, particularly in Latin America.
Dove brand proves a growth driver
Again the Dove brand led growth in the skin cleansing category, with the Dove Nutrium and Dove Men+Care range having successful roll outs in Australasia and the Nordic markets.
In hair care the company said it experienced market ‘resilience’ in both Latin America and Asia, with China showing ‘strong progress’. In particular a new product for frizzy hair in the US market, Dove Nourishing Oil, has shown promising signs for further success.
Unilever has made a concerted effort to concentrate future growth in the personal care segment, which it has backed up by the recent acquisitions of Sara Lee and Alberto Culver.
Sara Lee and Alberto Culver add to the mix
The Sara Lee business is currently being incorporated into its business operations and will help to increase its footprint in the global deodorant and skin cleansing categories thanks to the incorporation of a number of leading brands, including Badedas, Radox and Duschdas.
The Alberto Culver acquisition is still to be approved by regulatory authorities, but once this is completed, Unilever will significantly expand its position in the global hair care catgory with brands such as Alberto VO5, TRESemme and Nexxus .
Unilever, which already owns brands such as Dove, Sunsilk, Pond's and Vaseline, said the proposed acquisition of Alberto Culver would make it the world's leading company in hair conditioning and second largest in shampoo.