Ice Cream a Sweet Spot in Unilever First Quarter Results

Ice cream sales scored solid results for Unilever during the first quarter of 2017, as the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant saw overall turnover increase 6.1% to €13.3 billion, including a positive currency impact of 2.4%. The performance was reportedly better than expected from analysts.

Underlying sales growth was 2.9%, with prices up 3% and volume down 0.1%. In emerging markets underlying sales growth hit 6.1%, as prices rose 5.3% and volume increased 0.8%. The company’s quarterly dividend was raised 12% to €0.3585 per share.

MagnumWhile Unilever’s overall food portfolio result was relatively flat at €3.2 billion in turnover, the refreshment sector (which includes beverages as well as ice cream) generated a 5.4% sales gain at €2.3 billion as volume edged up 0.4%.

Growth in ice cream sales was helped by innovations among premium brands. These included the new Magnum Pints line of chocolate, vanilla and chocolate, raspberry and chocolate, and hazelnut and chocolate flavors distributed in 450ml tubs. Ben & Jerry’s grew at double-digit rates, boosted by strong performances of the ‘Wich sandwich and the new pint range. Meanwhile, Unilever has extended its less than 50 calories offerings under Solero and launched vegan and gluten-free variants under Cornetto.

Commenting on overall results, CEO Paul Polman said: “The first quarter shows growth once more ahead of our markets. This reflects our continued investment in both innovations and brand support, and reconfirms the strength of our long term sustainable compounding growth model.”

Business conditions remained challenging in much of the world. In markets in which company operates, growth was around 2% with negative volumes. Growth in India recovered from the uncertainty experienced due to the removal of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes from circulation in November, while Brazil continued to be adversely impacted by the economic crisis. Markets in Europe and North America declined in the first quarter.