Unilever History

Unilever PLC
P.O. Box 68
Unilever House
London EC4P 4BQ
United Kingdom
Telephone: (0171) 822-5252
Fax: (0171) 822-5951
Unilever N.V.
Weena 455

Telephone: (0171) 822-5252
Fax: (0171) 822-5951

Public Company
Incorporated: 1929 as Unilever Limited and Unilever N.V.
Employees: 265,000
Sales: £27.09 billion (US$44.90 billion) (1998)
Stock Exchanges: Amsterdam London New York Paris Frankfurt Brussels Zurich Luxembourg Vienna
Ticker Symbol: UN
NAIC: 311223 Other Oilseed Processing; 311225 Fats & Oils Refining & Blending; 311411 Frozen Fruit, Juice, & Vegetable Processing; 311412 Frozen Specialty Food Manufacturing; 311421 Fruit & Vegetable Canning; 311520 Ice Cream & Frozen Dessert Manufacturing; 311712 Fresh & Frozen Seafood Processing; 311920 Coffee & Tea Manufacturing; 311941 Mayonnaise, Dressing, & Other Prepared Sauce Manufacturing; 311942 Spice & Extract Manufacturing; 312111 Soft Drink Manufacturing; 325611 Soap & Other Detergent Manufacturing; 325620 Toilet Preparation Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

Our purpose in Unilever is to meet the everyday needs of people--everywhere&mdashø anticipate the aspirations of our consumers and customers and to respond creatively and competitively with branded products and services which raise the quality of life. Our deep roots in local cultures and markets around the world are our unparalleled inheritance and the foundation for our future growth. We will bring our wealth of knowledge and international expertise to the service of local consumers--a truly multi-local multinational. Our long term success requires a total commitment to exceptional standards of performance and productivity, to working together effectively and to a willingness to embrace new ideas and learn continuously. We believe that to succeed requires the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards our employees, consumers and the societies and world in which we live. This is Unilever's road to sustainable, profitable growth for our business and long-term value creation for our shareholders and employees. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

Two Dutch firms, Jurgens and Van den Bergh, begin commercial production of margarine.
William Hesketh Lever establishes soap factory in Warrington, marking the beginnings of Lever Brothers.
Jurgens and Van den Bergh pool their interests.
Lever begins producing margarine at the request of the British government.
Jurgens and Van den Bergh create dual-structured Margarine Union Limited and Margarine Unie N.V.
Margarine Union/Margarine Unie merges with Lever Brothers to create Unilever, with dual Anglo-Dutch structure.
Special committee is established as a board of directors over the British and Dutch Unilever holding companies.
Reorganization equalizes the assets of the Dutch and the British groups of Unilever; Thomas J. Lipton Company, U.S. manufacturer of tea, is acquired.
The U.S. toothpaste brand Pepsodent is acquired.
Company acquires U.K. frozen foods maker Birds Eye.
U.S. ice cream novelty maker Good Humor is acquired.
Buying spree begins that will last until 1988 and result in about 80 companies being acquired; Brooke Bond, the leading European tea company, is acquired through hostile takeover.
Company acquires Chesebrough-Pond's, its largest purchase to date.
The acquisition of three companies, including Fabergé Inc., makes the company a major player in the world perfume and cosmetics industry.
The launch of a new laundry detergent in Europe turns into a public relations disaster when tests reveal that it can damage clothes under certain conditions.
Fundamental management reorganization is launched, including the replacing of the special committee with a seven-member executive committee.
Specialty chemicals operations are sold to Imperial Chemical Industries PLC for about US$8 billion.
Company announces that it will eliminate about 1,200 of its brands to focus on around 400 regionally or globally powerful brands.

Company History:

Further Reading:

  • Beck, Ernest, "Unilever to Cut More Than 1,000 Brands," Wall Street Journal, September 22, 1999, p. A17.
  • "Britain's Most Admired Companies," Economist, October 17, 1992.
  • Davidson, Andrew, "The Davidson Interview: Niall FitzGerald," Management Today, November 1997, pp. 50, 52, 54.
  • ------, "The Davidson Interview: Sir Michael Perry," Management Today, May 1995, pp. 50-52, 54.
  • Deveny, Kathleen, and Gabriella Stern, "Lever Brothers Regroups in Wake of Market-Share Losses in 1993," Wall Street Journal, April 5, 1994, p. B11.
  • Dubey, Suman, "Unilever Seeks to Lap Up Bulk of India's Small, Fast-Growing Ice-Cream Market," Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1994, p. B6.
  • Dwyer, Paula, and others, "Unilever's Struggle for Growth," Business Week, July 4, 1994, pp. 54-56.
  • Fieldhouse, D.K., Unilever Overseas: The Anatomy of a Multinational, 1895-1965, London: Croom Helm, 1978.
  • Foster, Geoffrey, "Making Scents Make Sense," Management Today, June 1994, pp. 46-49.
  • Gibson, Richard, and Sara Calian, "Unilever to Acquire Helene Curtis," Wall Street Journal, February 15, 1996, pp. A3, A4.
  • Heller, Robert, "Slipping Up En Route to the Top," Management Today, February 1996, p. 21.
  • Hwang, Suein L., "Unilever to Acquire Ice Cream Business Owned by Kraft Unit of Philip Morris," Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1993, p. A4.
  • Ilgenfritz, Stefanie, "Unilever Joins Liquid Soap Fight, Forcing Competitors to Scramble," Wall Street Journal, August 26, 1993, p. B8.
  • "In Search of Alchemy," Economist, February 15, 1997, pp. 60-61.
  • Kripalani, Manjeet, "Unilever's Jewel: It May Be the Best-Run Outfit in India," Business Week, April 26, 1999, p. 114E2.
  • Levy, Liz, "Unilever Axes Fabergé Firm," Marketing, November 2, 1989.
  • Lipin, Steven, "Unilever to Sell Specialty-Chemicals Unit to ICI of the U.K. for About $8 Billion," Wall Street Journal, May 7, 1997, p. A3.
  • Lorenz, Andrew, "Unilever Changes Its Formula," Management Today, July 1996, pp. 44, 46-48.
  • Maljers, Floris A., "Inside Unilever: The Revolving Transnational Company," Harvard Business Review, September/October 1992.
  • "Munching on Change: Unilever's Food Business," Economist, January 6, 1996, p. 48.
  • Mussey, Dagmar, "Heading Back East: Unilever Knows Way into Reunited Germany," Advertising Age, December 30, 1990.
  • Nayyar, Seema, "Unilever Makes Power Move on Arden," Adweek's Marketing Week, June 22, 1992.
  • Neff, Jack, "P & G and Unilever's Giant Headaches," Advertising Age, May 24, 1999, pp. 22-24, 26, 28.
  • Orr, Deborah, "A Giant Reawakens: Even Unilever, Which Sells $130 Million in Products a Day, Can Lose Sight of Its Customers," Forbes, January 25, 1999, p. 52.
  • Parker-Pope, Tara, "Unilever Plans a Long-Overdue Pruning," Wall Street Journal, September 3, 1996, p. A13.
  • Reader, W.J., Fifty Years of Unilever, 1930-1980, London: Heinemann, 1980.
  • Reed, Stanley, "Unilever Finally Knows Where It's Going: East," Business Week (international ed.), May 4, 1998, p. 18.
  • Rohwedder, Cacilie, "Detergent Wars Bubble Over in Europe: Unilever, P & G Campaigns Become Dirty Business," Wall Street Journal, November 18, 1994, p. B7A.
  • ------, "Unilever's Co-Chief Faces Bumpy Road, Maps Course for Major Growth in Asia," Wall Street Journal, May 6, 1994, p. B5B.
  • Wilson, Charles, The History of Unilever, 3 vols., London: Cassell & Company, 1970.
  • Zinn, Laura, "Beauty and the Beastliness," Business Week, June 29, 1992.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 32. St. James Press, 2000.