Unilever Suspends Exports to Russia, Maintains Essential Food Supply

Unilever has suspended the flow of produce into and out of Russia as the consumer-goods giant reiterated its condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.

The London-listed business has also halted investment in Russia and will stop media and advertising spending, CEO Alan Jope said in a statement.

However, Jope added: “We will continue to supply our everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country. We will keep this under close review.”

Meanwhile, Unilever’s “business operations” in Ukraine have ceased, and the company is now “fully focused on ensuring the safety of our Ukrainian employees and their families, including helping with their evacuation where necessary, and providing additional financial support”, he added.

In Russia, Unilever has business units in Moscow and Omsk, marketing a range of products including under the food brands Knorr and Hellmann’s, according to its 2020 annual report.

Unilever employs 146 staff in Ukraine. It has an office in Kyiv and sells products under brands including Knorr and non-food items such as Dove soap and Domestos bleach.

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“We continue to condemn the war in Ukraine as a brutal and senseless act by the Russian state,” Jope said. “We have suspended all imports and exports of our products into and out of Russia, and we will stop all media and advertising spend. We will not invest any further capital into the country nor will we profit from our presence in Russia.”

A raft of food manufacturers have either pulled out of Russia or suspended exports and operations as the conflict in Ukraine reaches a fourteenth day.

French dairy giant Danone halted investment in Russia this week, although it continues to manufacture and distribute its dairy and infant-nutrition products in the country “to still meet the essential food needs of the local population”.

CEO Antoine de Saint-Affrique said at a capital markets day event yesterday (8 March) that Danone, one of the largest multinational food manufacturers with local production in Russia, is “managing the situation extremely closely”.

Global drinks firm PepsiCo has suspended the sale of Pepsi-Cola, 7Up and Miranda in Russia and halted capital investments, advertising and promotions. As a “humanitarian” measure, however, the business will continue to market milk, dairy and baby-food products.

Arla Foods, one of the world’s largest dairy companies, is to halt its operations in Russia. The Denmark-based co-operative said on Monday it had “initiated preparations to suspend its business in Russia”

Finland’s Fazer Group has also exited the Russian market after initially taking a first step in suspending exports of confectionery, grain and bakery products last week, when Finnish counterpart Raisio took the same decision.

Approached by Just Food to clarify the revenues generated by the business in both Russia and Ukraine, a Unilever spokesperson said “we don’t breakout the numbers” for either country.

Jope added: “We join calls for an end to this war and hope that peace, human rights, and the international rule of law will prevail. Our business operations in Ukraine have stopped…We have also committed to donate EUR5m (US$5.4m) of essential Unilever products to the humanitarian relief effort.”

For more on Just Food’s coverage on how the conflict is affecting the food industry, please visit our dedicated microsite.

Understand the impact of the Ukraine conflict from a cross-sector perspective with the Global Data Executive Briefing: Ukraine Conflict