Unilever seeks to premiumise its personal care portfolio

Unilever has outlined ambitions to make its personal care portfolio – which includes brands such as Dove, Vaseline and TRESemme – more premium as it looks to grow its biggest division by refocusing efforts on products that drive higher margins.

Speaking at the annual WWD Beauty CEO Summit in Florida yesterday (8 May), Unilever’s president of personal care Dave Lewis said the new direction is centred around the idea that “people are beautiful; rather than made beautiful” – a marketing approach its Dove deodorant and soap brand has demonstrated for some years.

Unilever is also looking to holistically integrate its personal care category around the whole person, with Lewis admitting that for many years the company would arrange each category around separate body parts.

He added: “We built our success by making our products accessible to billions of people around the world. But the opportunity to think up through the pyramid is clear, the case to build a more premium portfolio compelling. We are therefore making beauty as much a part of our Personal Care business as the need for cleanliness and the bars of soap that helped build the foundation of our business.”

Unilever says it began moving in this direction with its hair brands in 2011, following the acquisition of Alberto Culver which allowed it to develop “upscale” brands like Toni & Guy and TIGI.

It is now extending its premium strategy through to skin brands, having recently invested in Ioma, a technologically drive skin care solution and Illuminage, an in-home laser for wrinkle reduction.

Lewis also hinted at further developments in “ground-breaking” product innovation set to be announced in the near future, but did not elaborate further.

Dove’s personal care category is its largest division, generating €4.2bn of Unilever’s €11.4bn turnover in the first quarter of 2014 and €20bn in annual sales at 2013 exchange rates. The Personal Care category’s underlying sales grew by 4.5 per cent year on year in the period.

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