Having failed to titillate shareholders' taste buds with the growth of its European frozen foods business, Unilever has announced plans to sell the majority of its non-icecream frosted brands - including Birds Eye and Iglo which between them employ some 3,500 people across the continent.

"Deciding to put the majority of our European frozen food business up for sale has been a tough call," says Unilever ceo Patrick Cescau. However, although we have made great progress in increasing profitability in recent years, growth has been harder to come by.

"After an exhaustive review we have decided that the best way for us to create value is by selling the majority of the European frozen food businesses."

Excluded from the sell-off is the fmcg giant's Italian frozen food business which, according to Cescau "is inherently an attractive business with good growth prospects. It has a good track record, has strong leadership positions and is strategically important in a number of ways."

Some of these 'numbered ways' are political. "It is our biggest single business in Italy and its retention plays an important role in future trade relations in that country," Cescau admits.

Unilever has a frozen foods portfolio in eleven countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

  • Coincident with the announcement of its disposal plans, Unilever reported a year-on-year increase in its 2005 full-year pretax profit up 28.4% to €4.75 billion ($5.67bn; £3.26bn). This compares with €3.7bn in 2004.

Data sourced from BBC Online and Unilever.com; additional content by WARC staff