High demand for cleaning products and comfort food helped consumer goods giant Unilever bounce back from lockdown with higher-than-expected sales, it has announced.
The maker of Dove, Ben & Jerry's, Wall’s and Pot Noodle said ice cream sales had taken a hit as tourists stayed home but sales of soap and hand sanitisers remained strong during the pandemic.
Unilever's underlying revenues rose 4.4 per cent in the third quarter – more than double what analysts had forecast.
The Anglo-Dutch firm has also benefited from government orders to stay at home during lockdowns around the world which have boosted supermarket sales as shoppers stocked up their cupboards with Unilever’s well-known brands such as Hellman’s mayonnaise.
Home care sales, including Comfort fabric softener and Domestos bleach, jumped up 6.7 per cent to €2.6bn (£2.4bn). Unilever recently launched Demestos in China.
The beauty and personal care division grew 3.8 per cent, benefitting from strong sales of soap and sanitiser via its Dove products.
While people may be washing more frequently, sales of skin care products and deodorants both dropped as many people worked from home and socialised less.
Social distancing and the partial shutdown of hospitality businesses also caused a 20-per-cent drop in sales for Unilever's food services arm.
“We’re investing heavily in marketing our brands and behind innovation tailored to the changing environment as consumers learn to live with Covid,” said chief executive Alan Jope in a call following the announement.
The company also warned that its plans to unify its Dutch and English halves under one UK entity remains under threat due to a tax penalty that could be imposed in the Netherlands.
Shareholders backed Unilever’s unification earlier this month but the Dutch parliament is looking at a bill that would order a tax payment to be made before the move could go ahead.