Unilever puts spreads in spotlight

Unilever puts spreads in spotlight

Unilever plans to separate its struggling spreads business, which includes the Flora and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brands, into a standalone operating unit.

The unit - to be called baking, cooking and spreading - will report into Unilever's food category. It will be led by Sean Gogarty, EVP spreads, and will take full responsibility for strategy, planning and performance delivery. It is expected to come into effect by July next year, Unilever revealed.

A spokesperson for the group told just-food that the proposal is designed to "accelerate its transformation and return it to growth".

"We are confident that this approach will provide the focus and speed needed to improve delivery whilst retaining the benefits of Unilever's scale. Overall our intention is to improve the competitiveness of our spreads unit with sharper accountabilities and more focussed decision making."

According to the spokesperson, the move is in line with the group's strategy in other areas of its portfolio. "We already take different approaches for different businesses, with examples including Ben & Jerry's ice cream, our food solutions catering business and our premium personal care division. In an increasingly challenging world, this flexibility in business models is needed more than ever."

Unilever has been working to stem the decline of its problematic spreads business, with a particular focus on innovation to grow the category. However, declining margarine sales continued to weigh on the group's most resent financial update. 

The move has prompted further speculation that Unilever could be gearing up for a sale of the business. Check back for just-food's analysis of the move - and its significance for Unilever's wider food portfolio.