Unilever banks on new standalone spreads category as it plans more ‘agile’ approach

Unilever is hoping the creation of a new standalone spread unit for its brands including Flora and Bertolli, will help stabilise the ailing category and allow for a more agile approach to marketing and innovation.

The category, which currently accounts for 7 per cent of Unilever’s turnover and 27 per cent of its total food business, will be renamed Unilever Baking, Cooking and Spreading, to allow the “freedom to take necessary decisions”, according to Unilever’s chief financial officer Jean-Marc Huet, speaking during an investor seminar this morning.

It is hoped Baking, Cooking and Spreading will be fully operational by mid 2015 and will have a dedicated management team to provide more focus for the category and shorter decision lines.

The FMCG giant's spread business has struggled of late, having been hit by a fall in bread and margarine consumption. There has been specualtion that the move could signal a possible exit of the business, however a spokesperson for Unilever told The Drum: "We are not planning to sell or spin-off Spreads. It remains a core part of our business. This proposal is all about reigniting the growth of our Spreads business to drive Unilever’s long term success."

Unilever has worked to increase its efficiency in brand and marketing investment in 2014, and has reduced its ad production and agency fees by €100m over the last year and upped its digital ad spend from 8 per cent in 2009 to 19 per cent in 2014.

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