Unilever has reported strong performance in the third quarter of 2020, with underlying sales up 4.4%.
The company saw increased levels of growth for hand and home hygiene products, as well as food consumed at home. Performance also improved in other categories, with declines lessening in deodorants and skincare, while laundry and hair returned to growth.
In the beauty and personal care division, underlying sales grew by 3.8%, with 3.5% from volume and 0.4% from price. Demand for hand hygiene products remained high, albeit slightly below levels seen in Q2. Skin cleansing delivered underlying sales growth of 19.9%. Growth was supported by innovations including Dove’s entry into the antibacterial segment, and the extension of Lifebuoy into new formats and channels across several European markets.
Skincare declined in the high-single-digit figures and deodorants decline in the low-single digits. Both categories were negatively impacted by restricted living conditions, according to Unilever, although improved compared to Q2, as many countries eased lockdowns. The hair segment grew overall, as a decline in styling was offset by growth in wash and care products.
Consumer demand for household cleaning products to combat the spread of COVID-19 continued. Unilever’s home and hygiene brands delivered underlying sales growth in the high-teens, with germ-killing and antibacterial benefits particularly sought after. Domestos was also launched in China, as well as extending the brand to bleach-based spray and wipe formats.
Unilever said COVID-19 continues to influence consumer behaviour and channel dynamics in its markets. In North America, market growth continued to be driven by increased demand for foods consumed at home, while European markets saw a mixed picture on growth and a challenging pricing environment.
In China, growth improved slightly compared to Q2. After a strict lockdown earlier in the year, India saw a pick-up in economic activity, despite a rise in coronavirus cases. In Indonesia and Latin America, markets contracted in Q3.
The company’s CEO, Alan Jope, said: “We have delivered a strong performance this quarter. Volume-led growth shows the resilience of our portfolio and our agility in responding to rapidly changing dynamics across consumer segments, geographies, and channels.
“We continue to progress our strategic change agenda. Our proposals to simplify Unilever’s dual-headed legal structure have received strong support from both NV and PLC shareholders, and we have set out our Clean Future Strategy in Home Care, to eliminate fossil fuel-derived carbon from our cleaning products by 2030.
“The environment we are operating in will remain unpredictable in the near term, so we will continue to maintain the speed and agility of our response. Our focus remains volume-led competitive growth, delivering absolute profit and free cash flow.”