LONDON: Unilever, the consumer goods giant, is set to extend its reach into the personal care sector with the purchase of REN, a premium British skincare brand in the fast-growing naturals sector.

REN had annual sales of around £40m in 2013, some 30% of which came from its home market with the remainder spread across 50 other countries, offering Unilever an opportunity to grow the brand globally, reported the Financial Times.

According to Vasiliki Petrou, Unilever's senior VP-prestige brands, REN has "an incredibly loyal following, with a unique proposition that no doubt gives it potential for even further growth. Its premium positioning complements well our existing portfolio."

The move is part of a wider strategy by Unilever to boost its presence in the personal care market, where it's seeking to boost its annual revenues up from 37% currently to around two thirds. This ambition has seen the company make larger acquisitions in recent years, such as the 2010 purchase of the US hair and beauty brand Alberto Culver and a deal for a Russian equivalent, Kalina, a year later.

At the same time, Unilever has divested itself of some of its lower-growth food brands, such as Ragu pasta sauce and Wish-Bone salad dressings.

The 15-year-old REN, which is sold in its home market through retailers such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and ASOS, was founded by two brand consultants with no prior sector experience. One of the duo, Antony Buck, was motivated to develop a natural skin care product when his pregnant wife reacted adversely to many of the existing products on the market.

Commenting on the deal, he said it was "time for the brand to go to the next level."

Data sourced from Finanical Times; additional content by Warc staff