Unilever makes progress in Indonesia

22 June 2009

JAKARTA: Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, has been named as the "most-admired company in Indonesia" in a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal Asia among consumers and business leaders in the country.

According to the Asia 200 poll carried out by the news title, 12% of Indonesians plan to radically reduce their spending this year, with 54% cutting back to a more limited extent.

However, around a quarter of respondents expect to maintain their expenditure levels, while 8% actually intend to increase their outlay in 2009.

While a third of Indonesians live on less than $2 (€1.4; £1.2) a day, the country's economy is still expected to grow by around 3% this year, with domestic demand contributing two-thirds of GDP.

Unilever says it currently holds a 40% share of the national consumer goods market, and is responsible for 50% of all shampoo sales, a figure that rises to 80% in the toothpaste category. 

Soap brand Lifebouy, Pepsodent toothpaste and Bango soy sauce are among its biggest-selling properties in the country.

In the first quarter of this year, its sales in the market rose by 18% to 4.48 trillion rupiah, with net profits also growing by 9%, to 769 billion rupiah.

Eka Sugiarto, head of marketing for Unilever's Indonesian skincare division, said the downturn is a "time when people will be re-evaluating their choices," favouring the company's Ponds face cream.

Other recent initiatives include modifying the formula of Molto, its fabric conditioner brand, to reduce the number of rinses required by consumers, and launching "small sachets" of deodorant.

The company came in ahead of Astra International, the automotive-to-energy conglomerate, in the Wall Street Journal survey, with Indofood, which makes brands including Indomie noodles and Chitato crisps, in third.

Bank Central Asia, the country's third-largest lender, and Sampoerna, the tobacco company, closed out the top five.

Unilever was named as the top-ranked firm in terms of "long-term vision", innovation and quality, with Astra International taking this honours for corporate reputation, and Sampoerna for "financial reputation."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff