Hobbit Business Review

Unilever Is Leaving the Ice Cream Aisle, Separating From Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum: ‘Do Fewer Things Better, and With Greater Impact’

Consumer goods giant Unilever, the No. 108 most valuable company in the world, is scooping out its ice cream brands and splitting them from the rest of its multi-billion dollar business. In the process, 6% of its workforce could be cut.

According to a Tuesday Bloomberg report, the London-based company will likely create a new entity to house the company’s iconic ice cream division, including brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Cornetto, and Magnum.

Though Unilever’s ice cream unit had sales of $8.6 billion or €7.9 billion last year, it was the lowest-performing category out of Unilever’s core businesses, making at least $4 billion less than each of Unilever’s other four divisions. The next lowest-performing category was home care, with sales of $13.3 billion or €12.2 billion in 2023.

“Our overall idea is to do fewer things better, and with greater impact,” Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher told Bloomberg. “Ice cream is truly a different business. It is already managed separately than our other activities.”

The ice cream brands could be listed as a separate company, which Unilever said was the “most likely option,” or they could be sold to a private equity firm, which has precedent: Unilever sold 20 beauty brands to Boston-based private equity firm Yellow Wood Partners in December, including Q-tips and Caress.

If Unilever’s ice cream brands are spun off with a separate listing, the details will be decided in the next 18 months, according to Bloomberg.

Schumacher has been at the company for nine months and was previously CEO of the dairy company FrieslandCampina. He plans to cut 7,500 jobs, or about 6% of Unilever’s 128,000-person workforce, as part of the restructuring.

Unilever’s core businesses after the restructuring will include beauty and wellbeing, personal care, home care, and nutrition. Vaseline, Dove, Liquid I.V., and Paula’s Choice Skincare all fall within those categories, according to Unilever’s brands page.

Unilever’s full-year results from 2023 show that ice cream had a “disappointing year” with the lowest underlying sales growth of Unilever’s brands. Ben & Jerry’s also had a public legal dispute with Unilever over where its products could be sold that ended in December 2022.

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