Amid the pandemic, global consumer goods giant Unilever has experienced both spikes and dips in demand across its various product categories.
While total underlying sales declined 0.3% for the quarter ending June 30, beating analysts’ expectations, the maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise also saw revenue in North America climb 9.5% during the same time period.
Similar to other companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever has struggled due to coronavirus lockdowns of restaurants, cafes and movie theaters. At the same time, it’s benefited from a surge in consumers stockpiling supplies and seeking comfort food during the crisis.
Unilever’s out-of-home ice cream sales, for instance, dropped 35% during the quarter, while supermarket ice cream sales jumped 26%. The company’s Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s brands showed strong growth. Unilever’s at-home ice cream push—its brands also include Klondike and Breyers—is tied to a rise in online shopping and delivery services. Overall, the company’s ecommerce business spiked 62% throughout Q2 of 2020.
“One of the things we’re observing is e-everything,” Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO, said during an interview on Bloomberg TV. “A lot of the growth that we’ve seen in ice cream is people enjoying ice cream at the end of a meal as part of a home-delivery service. That’s a trend that we would expect to continue.”
Another bright spot was demand for household cleaning products, such as Seventh Generation and Cif. Underlying sales of Unilever’s home care unit grew 4% during the second quarter.
A longtime advocate of addressing harmful content found online, in late June Unilever announced its intent to pause U.S. advertising on various social media platforms following calls to boycott Facebook over its lack of action on hate speech and misinformation.
“As consumer habits and the status of lockdowns have been changing during this period, we have been quick to adapt and reallocate our brand and marketing investment week-by-week,” according to a statement from Unilever. “In response to lockdowns in our markets, we reduced spend in some channels and geographies while maintaining investment in growth opportunities.”
Unilever plans to increase marketing investments in the second half of 2020 to support brand campaigns and product innovations designed for a post-Covid-19 environment.