Unilever has recorded underlying sales growth of 1.9% in its full-year 2020 results, following a year of market volatility due to the impact of Covid-19.
Underlying sales grew across Unilever’s Asia/AMET/RUB and Americas segments last year, by 0.4% and 6.2% respectively, while Europe witnessed a decline in underlying sales of 1%.
Overall, Unilever says that ecommerce grew by 61% in 2020.
The owner of Ben & Jerry’s, Marmite and Hellmann’s reported that its food and refreshment unit grew its full-year underlying sales by 1.3%, with ‘double-digit’ growth in Unilever’s retail foods business.
With extended closures of out-of-home channels, Unilever’s food solutions declined by 30% but ice cream – which accounted in part for Unilever’s flat first-quarter results – grew slightly overall as the company shifted resources towards the in-home business.
Tea saw ‘low-single-digit’ growth and Unilever CEO Alan Jope said that the company “continue to work on separating out the tea business”, in the wake of a strategic review process announced early last year.
Unilever reported turnover of €50.7 billion for 2020, representing a fall of 2.4%, primarily driven by a negative impact of 5.4% from currency-related items.
In its last quarter, the company delivered underlying sales growth of 3.5% – in line with estimates, according to Reuters.
Unilever CEO, Jope, said: “In a volatile and unpredictable year, we have demonstrated Unilever’s resilience and agility through the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Jope continued: “Early in the year, we refocused the business on competitive growth, and the delivery of profit and cash as the best way to maximise value.
“We have delivered a step change in operational excellence through our focus on the fundamentals of growth. As a result, we are winning market share in over 60% of our business in the last quarter, on the basis of measurable markets.
“The business also generated underlying operating profit of €9.4 billion and free cash flow of €7.7 billion, an increase of €1.5 billion.”
The results are Unilever’s first since the company completed the unification of its group legal structure, moving to a single parent company.
Jope added: “While volatility and unpredictability will continue throughout 2021, we begin the year in good shape and are confident in our ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.”