Unilever feels effect of China slowdown as Q3 market growth stutters


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Unilever feels effect of China slowdown as Q3 market growth stutters

Related tags Personal care Developed country North america Investment

Unilever felt the full force of the slowdown in emerging markets, with China in particular making for bad news; and even the performance of its largest, and normally more reliable, category, Personal Care, took a hit.

The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant released its third quarter results posting underlying sales growth of 2.1% while turnover declined 2.0% to €12.2 billion.

Market growth continued to slow as macro-economic pressures affected consumer demand, with emerging market growth remaining weak and a sharp slow-down in China.

It wasn’t much better in Europe as both volume and price declined, though this was down to the ice cream category, and there were positive signs at last in North America; while the Personal Care category posted one of the better performances.

“Developed markets are weak, emerging markets slower, and worldwide value market growth is now less than 2% for our markets. We anticipated a slowdown, but I must admit not quite to this extent,”​ comments Jean-Marc Huet, CFO.

Largest category

Personal Care growth slowed in the third quarter, in part due to slower markets and in part due to the conditions in China.

“Markets have continued to slow during the year, particularly in the mass segments, as consumers have adjusted to squeeze disposable incomes and become more frugal in their usage and purchases,”​ says James Allison, Head of Corporate Strategy, M&A and Investor Relations.

“At the same time, competitive intensity remains high, especially in the U.S. and in oral care in a number of countries.”


Deodorants benefited from a strong performance of Dove, the launch of Rexona Anti-bacterial Protection in Latin America and the success of the compressed aerosol range in Europe.

“Our 2 largest Personal Care brands, Dove and Rexona, continue to show good innovation-led growth”​ continues Allison.

“For Dove, new technologies are bringing added benefits in products like the improved NutriumMoisture body wash or the Dove Advanced Hair Series… Rexona is seeing a good start for the compressed format, which is now in 6 countries, another example of a sustainability initiative enabled by superior technology for the benefit of consumers.”

Skin care

In skin cleansing there was continued growth for Lifebuoy, and the aforementioned Dove Nutrium Moisture body wash performed well too.

“The strongest brand growth in Personal Care comes from Lifebuoy,”​ adds Allison.

“This brand combines superior technology with a clear social message all built around helping more children reach the age of 5. Lifebuoy is now in 37 countries after the most recent launch into China, which has started well.”

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