Unilever eyes growth in developing markets

31 March 2009

DUBAI: Unilever expects to post double-digit growth in sales volumes in the Middle East and North Africa this year, where the company's regional chairman, Sanjiv Mehta, argues the fmcg market is "not recession-proof" but is "recession-resistant".

The company has been involved in a long-term restructuring programme, called "One Unilever," aiming to streamline its global operations, which extend to over 100 countries.

While the downturn has caused sales across numerous categories to slow, Mehta says that the slump will have less of an impact on those sectors serving consumers' "daily needs."

As evidence of this, he said that Unilever's turnover in the Middle East and North Africa rose by 10% in the first two months of 2009 year-on-year, and that the company has also been "growing our market share."

He added that the fmcg giant has "not shied away from advertising and will invest more in advertising this year than in 2008," and is also "still investing" in its brands.

As shoppers are likely to "ration their spending", Mehta further suggests that brands with "strong functional benefits" and offering "value to consumers" are key in the current climate.

Overall, Unilever predicts its trade volume will increase by over 10% in the Middle East and North Africa this year, having made more than $1 billion (€762m; £707m) in the two regions in 2008.

Its fastest-growing markets are likely to be Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Data sourced from Emirates Business 24-7; additional content by WARC staff