Unilever – The Most Active Manager of a Brand Portfolio

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July is National Ice Cream Month.  Who doesn’t love ice cream?  We love ice cream and we know that 90 percent of the US population likes it too.  So in honor of National Ice Cream month, we want to highlight Unilever, a company that has a large amount of ice cream brands along with other brands over the years.  Since the company originated in 1929, it’s been one of Europe’s largest firms.  Here’s a history of Unilever’s ice cream acquisitions:

The company was created by a merger of the Dutch-controlled Margarine Unie and the British-owned Lever Brothers.  In the preceding decades, both companies had also grown by a process of merger and acquisition.  After World War II, edible fats and laundry soap where the central elements of Unilever’s product portfolio.  These brands contributed to more than one half of the corporate profits in the mid-1960s.  However, the company decided to diversify its product portfolio in response to specific threats to its core business.  At this time, the consumption of yellow fats decreased while the competition of laundry soap and detergents increased. 

Unilever Creates a Global Ice Cream Business

Lever Brothers acquired T. Wall & Sons, a sausage and ice cream manufacturer, in 1922.  By the 1930s, Wall’s had a national ice cream distribution system in Britain.  By the second half of the decade, the company also supplied electric freezer cabinets to retail shops and restaurants.  The company also implemented hygienic production methods, which were needed to overcome the poor-hygiene image that Italian ice cream makers (who formerly supplied the market) created.  After the formation of Unilever, a small ice cream business in Germany was acquired. 

By the mid-1950s, Wall’s was earning 36 percent return on its investment in ice cream.  In 1952, the company opened a small ice cream factory in Nigeria.  Five years later, it opened an ice cream factory in South Africa.  In 1958, Unilever conducted an internal investigation about the future potential of foods other than edible fats.  This Food Study Group concluded that increasing living standards would result in an increased desire to purchase prepared foods of all kinds and that Unilever needed to invest in it.  This study indicated that ice cream would be in high demand and that the company should develop this as a major brand for Unilever.  Unilever decided to expand its ice cream, soup, and frozen food brands.  By the end of the 1970s, the company acquired 30 percent of the Western European ice cream market.

 Ice Cream Acquisitions from 1960 to 1978

  • Australian-based McNiven Brothers in 1959
  • Denmark-based Frisko in 1960
  • Australian-based Streets in 1960
  • Australia-based JP Sennit in 1961
  • American-based Good Humor in 1961
  • Netherland-based VAMI in 1962
  • Italian-based Spica in 1962
  • Italian-based Eldorado in 1967
  • Spanish-based Frigo in 1973
  • Brazilian-based Alnasa in 1973
  • Italian-based Motta in 1977
  • Australian-based Amscol in 1978

While its ice cream business had a large portion of the market share, Unilever’s business strategy was to acquire many other brands which included: tea, personal care, and specialty chemical businesses.  Unilever was able to diversify its brand portfolio through numerous acquisitions.  This allowed the company to build successful businesses and new product categories.  This is why the company is considered a “global giant” in branded consumer products. 

The LuAnn Capital Group is a global Mergers and Acquisitions advisory firm with focus on selective industries. 

In every step of the mergers and acquisitions process, we pay attention to our clients needs. We listen. We respond. We’re more accessible to our clients than larger companies, whether the issue is small-business valuations, small-business marketing tips, exit strategies or other aspects involved in the process of selling a company.

You will benefit from our extensive network of contacts and resources connected with business acquisitions and business mergers. Our competitive pricing model enhances our consulting services, which are geared toward value incrementation and a successful business exit strategy.

The culture at our company is built on a commitment to client-centered service and adherence to the highest standards of personal and professional integrity. The confidential and professional representation we provide leads to a smooth and successful partnership.

We look forward to working with you!

Source: www.hbs.edu

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