In the 1890s, William Hesketh Lever, founder of Lever Bros and later Lord Leverhulme, wrote down his ideas for Sunlight Soap – his revolutionary new product that helped popularise cleanliness and hygiene in Victorian England. It was `to make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness, that life may be more enjoyable and rewarding for the people who use our products`.
This was long before the phrase `Corporate Mission` had been invented, but these ideas have stayed at the heart of our business, even if their language - and the notion of only women doing housework – has become outdated.
In a history that now crosses three centuries, Unilever`s success has been influenced by the major events of the day – economic boom, depression, world wars, changing consumer lifestyles and advances in technology. And throughout we`ve created products that help people get more out of life – cutting the time spent on household chores, improving nutrition, enabling people to enjoy food and take care of their homes, their clothes and themselves.
Balancing profit with responsible corporate behaviour
In the late 19th century the businesses that would later become Unilever were among the most philanthropic of their time. They set up projects to improve the lot of their workers and created products with a positive social impact, making hygiene and personal care commonplace and improving nutrition through adding vitamins to foods that were already daily staples.
Today, Unilever still believes that success means acting with `the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards our employees, consumers and the societies and world in which we live`. Over the years we`ve launched or participated in an ever-growing range of initiatives to source sustainable supplies of raw materials, protect environments, support local communities and much more.
Through this timeline you`ll see how our brand portfolio has evolved. At the beginning of the 21st century, our Path to Growth strategy focused us on global high-potential brands and our Vitality mission is taking us into a new phase of development. More than ever, our brands are helping people `feel good, look good and get more out of life` – a sentiment close to Lord Leverhulme`s heart over a hundred years ago.
With 400 brands spanning 14 categories of home, personal care and foods products, no other company touches so many people`s lives in so many different ways.
Our brand portfolio has made us leaders in every field in which we work. It ranges from much-loved world favourites including Lipton, Knorr, Dove and Omo, to trusted local brands such as Blue Band and Suave.
From comforting soups to warm a winter`s day, to sensuous soaps that make you feel fabulous, our products help people get more out of life.
We`re constantly enhancing our brands to deliver more intense, rewarding product experiences. We invest ?1 billion every year in cutting edge research and development, and have five laboratories around the world that explore new thinking and techniques to help develop our products.
Consumer research plays a vital role in our brands` development. We`re constantly developing new products and developing tried and tested brands to meet changing tastes, lifestyles and expectations. And our strong roots in local markets also mean we can respond to consumers at a local level.
By helping improve people`s diets and daily lives, we can help them keep healthier for longer, look good and give their children the best start in life.
We also believe that the very business of conducting business in a responsible way has a positive social impact. We create and share wealth, invest in local economies and develop people`s skills – both inside our organisation and in the communities around us.
Today Unilever employs 179 000 people in 100 countries worldwide, and supports the jobs of many thousands of distributors, contractors and suppliers.
Health & personal care
First launched in France in 1983, our leading male grooming brand, Axe, now gives guys the edge in the mating game in over 60 countries.Our oral care brands Mentadent, Peposodent and Signal have teamed up with the world`s largest dental federation, the FDI, which represents over 750 000 dentists around the world Lux became the first mass-marketed soap when it launched in 1924. Today it achieves annual global sales of over Euro 1 billion. Domestos is a best-selling brand in nine of the 35 countries in which it`s sold Hindustan Lever in India has launched a hand-wash product, Surf Excel Quick Wash, with a low foaming formulation, reducing the amount of water needed for rinsing by up to two buckets per wash. Recent breakthroughs at Rexona include Rexona Crystal, a deodorant that eliminates unsightly white deposits on dark garments.
Knorr is our biggest food brand with a strong presence in over 80 countries and a product range including soups, sauces, bouillons, noodles and complete meals.
We`re the world`s largest ice cream manufacturer, thanks to the success of our Heartbrand which includes Magnum, Cornetto, Carte d`Or and Solero, and Ben & Jerry`s and Breyers in the US.
Lipton`s tea-based drinks include the international Lipton Iced Tea range, the Lipton range in North America and Lipton Yellow Label, the world`s favourite tea brand.
Becel/Flora pro.activ products have been recognised as the most significant advancement in the dietary management of cholesterol in 40 years.
In the mid 1990s we led the industry with our programme to eliminate almost all trans fat from our margarine
AdEs, our soy-based fruit drink, has been growing at the impressive rate of 35% since its launch in 1997 in Latin America.