240 to lose their jobs as Unilever overhauls its innovation strategy

Unilever is cutting back its food innovation operation with the loss of 240 jobs in a sweeping restructure designed to improve its poor record in launching new products.

The company’s European Foods Research & Development division will slim its 60 offices across Europe to 29, with the loss of 240 jobs out of a total of 1,160. Under the new structure Unilever will open six food innovation “centres of excellence” across Europe while there will be an office in each of the 21 European markets to implement new launches.

Two innovation centres will be created at Unilever’s Colworth site near Bedford: one for beverages, headed by Unilever executive Phil Evans, and another for “frozen structured emulsions” such as ice cream, headed by Iain Campbell. They will be expected to develop, market-leading new products. 

A centre for dry food innovation will be based at Heilbronn in Germany and a centre for wet foods and sauces innovation will be created in Poznan in Poland. A new centre for condiments will be set up in Dijon in France. The Vlaardingen office in Holland will continue as the innovation centre for global foods research and development.

Unilever estimates the restructure will lead to some 260 staff being relocated across Europe. The spokesman says innovation at Unilever “has not been as frequent as we would like. The intention is to make sure delivery gets better.”

The restructure is part of the One Unilever programme implemented by chief executive Patrick Cescau. It is part of a science and technology review led by Vindi Banga, president of Unilever’s food category, and will be implemented in 2007 and 2008.

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