Blog: Dean BestA note of realism from Unilever

Dean Best | 19 March 2009

Maybe it's me. Maybe I like a bit of doom and gloom. I do like Joy Division and The Smiths, after all.

However, amid the optimism bandied about by some during yesterday's (18 March) first day at the Retail Week Conference, it was almost refreshing to hear a dose of realism as the second day kicked off.

These are, after all, almost unprecedented economic conditions we're working in.

The job of gloom-merchant fell this morning to Dave Lewis, the chairman of Unilever UK & Ireland.

Lewis gave a lucid and well-thought out presentation that began with a series of recordings from UK consumers crunched by the recession and fearful about their job prospects.

Phrases like “I feel like a failure” and “I feel like I've let my wife down” flashed up on the screens as Joe Public talked about how the recession has hit them.

As Lewis returned to the stage, there was an air of despondency in the room. Perhaps it was the realisation that these are bleak economic times.

On occasion, it's worth pondering just how attuned well-paid business executives are into how the recession is affecting those in lower-income brackets.

During his presentation, Lewis displayed a stat he hoped would highlight people's changing behaviour. The number of foreign holidays taken by Britons, he said, have fallen by around a fifth in the last year. Notably, Lewis's quick straw poll of the room showed that most took a holiday outside the UK last year – and roughly the same would this year, too.

Unilever, Lewis said, recognised that consumers' priorities had changed, pointing to product innovations including Knorr Stock Pots, which aim to appeal to the growing desire to shun eating out for eating in.

As Lewis said, there are opportunities out there.

However, to grab those opportunities, it's first necessary to really understand your customer's desires – and fears – amid the economic turmoil.

And, this morning, Unilever injected a necessary dose of realism into a sometimes over-optimistic prognosis of the UK consumer.


HOT ISSUE

The prognosis for UK retail

UK retail's top executives are meeting in London over the next two days to discuss how the sector is performing amid the most turbulent economic conditions for a generation. Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morris...

BLOG

Barilla puts sustainability centre stage

Barilla's 2016 results statement, published last week, makes interesting reading, not because of the Italian food group's commercial performance, but for the emphasis placed on sustainability achievem...

BLOG

UK M&A deal volumes slide in early months of 2017

Fresh data from Grant Thornton indicates the number of mergers and acquisitions in the UK food and drink sector fell to the lowest level for over two years in the first quarter of in 2017 - but the ac...

BLOG

Food policy returns to focus in Westminster

Amid the political turmoil in the UK caused by the EU Referendum, the resignation of a Prime Minister, subsequent burning debates over the Brexit “divorce” settlement and now by the surprise announcem...

just-food homepage



Forgot your password?