Unilever is a European Union (Anglo/Dutch) corporation which owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products. Unilever employs more than 247,000 people and had a worldwide turnover of €48 760 million in 2002.
Unusually, Unilever has two parent companies: Unilever NV in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Unilever PLC in London, United Kingdom. Both companies have the same directors and effectively operate as a single business. The current chairman for Unilever NV is Antony Burgmans while Niall FitzGerald is the head of Unilever PLC.
Unilever was created in 1930 by the merger of British soapmaker Lever Brothers and Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie, a logical merger as palm oil was a major raw material for both margarines and soaps and could be imported more advantageously in larger quantities.
In the 1930s, the business of Unilever grew and new ventures were launched in Latin America. By 1980, soap and edible fats contributed just 40% of profits, compared with an original 90%. In 1984 the company bought the brands Brooke Bond tea, Faberge and Elizabeth Arden, but the latter was later sold (in 2000) to FFI Fragrances.
Unilever acquired Chesebrough-Ponds, the maker of Vaseline, in 1987, which strengthened its position in the world skin care market. The company later absorbed the American business Bestfoods, strengthening its presence in North America and extending its portfolio of foods brands.
Today the company is fully multinational with operating companies and factories on every continent and research laboratories in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, India, and China.
Unilever has a portofolio of about 1000 brands, many of them local that can only be found in certain countries. The brands fall almost entirely in two categories as set out below.
Food and beverage brands
Ades, Becel, Ben and Jerry's, Bertolli, Birds Eye, Blue Band, Boursin, Brooke Bond, Calvé, Findus, Flora, HB, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lipton, PG Tips, Pot noodle, Ragu, Magnum, Solero, Slim Fast, Walls.
Home and personal care brands