Unilever's Dynamic Duo
Unilever's heritage stems from soap, but these days, it’s the company’s beauty business that is really bubbling up. After a decade of fits and starts, the Anglo-Dutch giant has transformed its personal-care business into a mass-market leader. Globally, Unilever posted double-digit gains in personal care in 2012, which accounts for 35 percent, or about 18.1 billion euros (about $23.5 billion at current exchange), in overall sales.
The numbers in North America have been equally as impressive, driven by the dynamic vision of a powerful new management team: Kees Kruythoff, a 20-year Unilever veteran who was appointed president of North America in September of 2011, and Gina Boswell, the executive vice president of personal care, North America, who was named to her current role in July of 2011, shortly after Unilever completed the acquisition of her previous company, Alberto Culver, where she was president of global brands.
“If you had asked me how Unilever was doing a couple of years ago, I would have said they were chock-full of poorly differentiated brands, strolling along the sales cycle without really thinking about the portfolio and what consumers are looking for,” says Victoria Gustafson, principal, strategic insights, of the SymphonyIRI Group. “In the last couple of years, I have seen a huge change, particularly in hair care.”