Unilever posts underlying sales growth 3.2%, with emerging markets up 6.2%, in the third quarter of 2014. Market growth continued to slow in the third quarter as macro-economic pressures affected consumer demand. Emerging market growth remained weak with flat volumes, notably a sharp slow-down in China. Company notes signs of improvement in North America as the impact of the economic recovery starts to be felt by consumers.
“We continued to invest behind our brands and innovations so that we are well-positioned for the long term growth opportunities, which remain fully intact," said Paul Polman, CEO. "We expect markets to remain tough for at least the remainder of the year. We are confident that we will achieve another year of profitable volume growth ahead of our markets, steady and sustainable core operating margin improvement and strong cash flow."
In China the impact of the sharp market slow-down has led to trade de-stocking across the distribution channels. This resulted in a decline in underlying sales of around 20%.
The company's personal care business unit's growth slowed in the third quarter, in part due to slower markets and in part due to the conditions in China. 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.
Skin cleansing saw continued strong growth for Lifebuoy and the improved Dove Nutrium Moisture body wash performed well. Lux continued to benefit from the improved product range and new brand communication.
In hair, the Dove Advanced Hair series is building a premium offering with the introduction of the Oxygen Moisture range in Europe. Sunsilk is growing well and Clear benefited from a successful launch in Japan. Regnerate Enamel Science, the company's new oral brand, a toothpaste and serum system that regenerates the enamel surface with a layer of minerals with the same chemical composition as natural enamel, is progressing well in the United Kingdom.