LONDON — Competition from the Halo Top brand and hurricanes in Texas and Florida combined to take a bite out of ice cream results for Unilever, P.L.C. in the third quarter. The poor ice cream showing played a role as net sales in the company’s Refreshment segment fell 6.7% to €2,618 million ($3,103 million), which compared with €2,804 million in the previous year’s third quarter.
Ice cream varieties low in calories and sugar and high in protein are found under the Halo Top brand.
|Graeme Pitkethly, c.f.o. and executive director of Unilever|
“It’s taken 1.5 share points from us,” said Graeme D. Pitkethly, chief financial officer and executive director of Unilever, in an Oct. 19 trading statement call. “We’ve responded very quickly with Breyers.”
Unilever has launched seven varieties of Breyers delights ice cream in North America. The varieties have calorie levels ranging from 260 to 330 calories per pint and 20 grams of protein per pint. Premium ice cream brands performed well in the third quarter for Unilever. Mr. Pitkethly said Magnum pints, launched less than a year ago, already are in 19 markets and are expected to deliver more than €30 million ($36 million) in net sales in 2017. The Magnum brand is experiencing growth of nearly 15%, he said.
Also within Refreshment, Unilever benefited from innovations in specialty and premium tea segments Lipton launched in Brazil and Argentina. Pure Leaf, already available in the United States, was introduced in the United Kingdom.
“Underlying sales grew 3.1% (in Refreshment), but this was all from commodity-driven pricing,” said Andrew Stephen, vice-president of investor relations at Unilever. “Volumes were down by 2.4%. In ice cream, we’ve grown strongly over the past two years, helped by our innovations behind brands like Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s and two good summers in Europe. This year, we had poorer weather in August and September, leading to lower sales. Despite this, Magnum continues to show double-digit growth globally, with almost half from volume.”
Unilever’s Foods segment had net sales of €2,938 million, which was down 1.4% from $2,980 million in the previous year’s third quarter. The Knorr brand grew by 5% with a good balance of volume and price, Mr. Stephen said. In dressings, Hellman’s has relaunched the brand with strengthened natural claims in 25 markets while the organic varieties now are available in both North America and Europe.
Unilever in April said it planned to either sell or demerge its Spreads business. Excluding Spreads, underlying sales growth in the Foods segment was 2.7% in the third quarter, Mr. Stephen said.
Companywide, London-based Unilever had net sales of €13,166 million ($15,603 million) in the third quarter, which was down 1.6% from €13,380 million in the previous year’s third quarter. Underlying sales in North America were down 2.9%. The hurricanes disrupted transport in Florida and Texas, which caused Unilever to lose about one week of sales in those states, Mr. Stephen said.Companywide net sales over nine months were €40,891 million, up 3.1% from €39,663 million.