First quarter highlights for Unilever include underlying volume growth of 7.6%. Underlying sales growth also accelerated to 4.1%.
According to CEO Paul Polman, “We show strong momentum across all geographies with continued strengthening of our competitive position in line with our strategy. Growth was supported by the quickening pace of innovation and the introduction of brands into new markets. Growth has been especially strong in emerging markets despite the heightened competitive activity. We have continued to invest more in advertising and promotions to build brand equities and support the rollout of our innovations.
“The improvement in underlying operating margin shows the impact of extensive savings programs, lower commodity costs, and the benefits of volume leverage. We will face a tougher environment as the year progresses and thus it is more important than ever to stay focused on the consumer. Commodity costs will increase in the second half, economies remain sluggish and competitive intensity will remain high. We will continue to focus on profitable volume growth, whilst delivering a steady and sustainable improvement in operating margin and strong cash flow. Importantly, we will be doing all of this while continuing to improve our overall environmental footprint.”
For the personal care division, volume growth accelerated across all categories in the first quarter as the company focused on bigger innovations, rolled out to more countries, more quickly. Personal care delivered another excellent quarter on the back of a strong flow of innovations such as Dove Men+Care. A superior range of Dove body washes was launched in Europe using the patented ‘Nutrium’ moisture technology and Dove Hair Damage Repair has been launched in the U.S. and will be rolled out to many more markets in 2010. Both Dove and Vaseline are driving growth in hand and body with revitalized product ranges. The Sunsilk Co-Creations range of hair care products is being rolled out and TiGi brought ‘Curlesque’ to market, the latest collection from Catwalk. In personal wash, Lifebuoy soap has been rolled out to new markets including Turkey, Malaysia and Egypt. After the success of White Now, Signal anti-age toothpaste has been launched in our main Oral markets in Western Europe.