Bertolli, Country Crock Among Unilever's Bright Spots

Packaged goods marketer Unilever saw a sales boost of 1.6 percent in the third quarter on price increases and increased sales of ice cream in Europe, the company reported yesterday.

North America and Europe accounted for most of that revenue growth, with the two regions making up two-thirds of sales. At the same time, the Anglo-Dutch marketer attributed a 48 percent drop in profits to last year's one-time gains from selling its cosmetic division to Coty for $800 million, as well as increased advertising and promotional spending.

On the food side, in the U.S., Unilever pointed to its Country Crock spread and Bertolli brand--which includes pasta sauces, olive oils and condiments--as two of its bright spots.

Unilever is running a new multi-channel ad campaign for Bertolli frozen dinners in the New York area. The campaign--with a "So good chefs don't want you to know about it" theme--includes a Web site, actors posing as protesting chefs, street sampling, and outdoor ads on billboards, taxi tops, and phone booths. If successful, that effort will expand to other markets next year.



Unilever also sees promise in AdeZ, a successful new beverage launch in the U.K. and Latin America. AdeZ is seemingly similar to soy milk, but is offered in fruit flavors to make it palatable--and also to encourage consumers to drink it like soda or punch. With flavors including orange and peach and apricot and mango, Unilever describes AdeZ as "a fruity soy blend," with health benefits and vitamins.

Most visibly, Unilever has been making headlines for its Campaign for Real Beauty for the Dove brand--the long-standing HBA brand which has been its most successful. Expanding Dove into deodorant, haircare and sunless tanning moisturizer, the brand (and campaign) has most recently garnered huge attention with a new online video effort depicting a woman's transformation from everyday to glamorous for a billboard ad. The video has had tremendous viral pick-up, making it extremely cost-efficient.

This summer, Unilever introduced the Sunsilk haircare line in the U.S. TV ads for the $100 million launch began recently, using comic Mario Cantone for the voiceover.

Unilever, which has been criticized for its unwieldy, inefficient corporate structure, has been working to streamline offices and its many office locations, and trim executive staff to promote faster decision making.

Last week, for instance, the company announced an efficiency and cost-cutting effort to combine its offices in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and Trumbull, CT, affecting more than 5 percent of its U.S. employees. The restructuring, to be completed by 2008, will move all U.S. logistics to Trumbull.

In September, Unilever realigned marketing, essentially splitting media and marketing between Lisa Klauser, vice president of brand building and marketing excellence for Unilever U.S., and Laura Klauberg, vice president of media for the Americas.

CFO Patrick Cescau said yesterday that Unilever's priority is to improve margins with "a combination of savings, mix improvement and appropriate pricing."

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