Unilever Ice Cream & Beverage sales jump 7.4%

by Jeff Gelski
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LONDON — Revenues in the Ice Cream & Beverages division of London-based Unilever increased 7.4% in the first quarter ended March 31 due in part to the introduction of Breyer’s Smooth & Dreamy ice cream bars and sandwiches in the United States, the company said April 29. Revenues of €1,798 million ($2,379 million) in the quarter compared with €1,664 million in the previous year’s first quarter.

First-quarter operating profit for Ice Cream & Beverages dropped to €143 million from €154 million. Starbucks ice cream and Klondike performed well while the Ben & Jerry’s quality improvement program continues.

In Savoury, Dressings and Spreads, first-quarter revenue came in at €3,396 million, up 2.5% from €3,312 million in the previous year’s first quarter. First-quarter operating profit of €544 million was up from €440 million.

Initial reception was positive for the introduction of the P.F. Chang’s range of frozen Asian restaurant-quality cuisine in the United States. In spreads, U.S. volume shares reached multi-year highs with margarine benefiting from the trend to healthy eating. Dressings performance was disappointing even though the Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise made with cage-free eggs continues to do well.

Companywide, Unilever had first-quarter net profit of €1,055 million, which was up 31% in current rates and 29% in constant rates from €803 million in the previous year’s first quarter. Revenues in the first quarter of €10,143 million was up 6.7% in current rates and 4.4% in constant rates from €9,505 million in the previous year’s first quarter.

“We will face a tougher environment as the year progresses, and thus it is more important than ever to stay focused on the consumer,” said Paul Polman, chief executive officer. “Commodity costs will increase in the second half. Economies remain sluggish, and competitive intensity will remain high.”

Mr. Polman said in the first quarter Unilever showed strong momentum across all geographies.

In the Americas, Unilever had first-quarter revenues of €3,340 million, which was up from €3,156 million in the previous year’s first quarter, and first-quarter operating profit of €504 million, up from €442 million. U.S. and Canadian businesses grew volume ahead of their markets despite a continuing impact of a product recall in the Slim-Fast business, said Jean-Marc Huet, chief financial officer.

“This incident is now behind us, and the brand is back in full distribution,” Mr. Huet said.
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