What is your favorite brand of soap? What about your favorite type of ice cream?
While these two things might feel entirely separate from each other, there’s a good chance that whatever brands you answered for each category are owned by Unilever.
So often brands are thought of as being wholly unique or distinct; in reality, titans of industry like Unilever have made an art of bringing together seemingly separate items under a single umbrella.
For The Home and Body
Unilever owns more than 400 brands, which can feel like an overwhelming number, but it’s much simpler to grasp when you break it down by category. Basically, all of Unilever’s products are either: home care items, beauty and personal items, or food and snack items.
Among these are highly recognizable brands like Dove, Axe, Hellman’s, Lipton, and many others. Whether you’re taking a shower, washing dishes, or enjoying some ice cream after dinner, you’re probably interacting with a Unilever brand.
This company obviously values enhancing the average person’s everyday life, but they’re also concerned with making sure that their business practices are sustainable for long term growth.
A Storied Past
As with any truly massive company, Unilever’s path to international success has not been linear. The first versions of this company were founded in the 1870s when two men from the Netherlands created (and eventually merged) margarine factories.
Eventually, that margarine company joined hands with a British soapmaker in the 1920s, and Unilever was officially born. It’s easy to see how the company took shape given the fact that these were its first products.
Over the next (nearly) hundred years, Unilever has enjoyed fabulous success. They began expanding their product line as early as the 1930s, acquiring some of its most notable brands even in those early days.
In 2018, Unilever earned profits in excess of 51 billion Euros, so their growth is only growing despite their already-long tenure.
David and Goliath
While at first glance one might assume that equally large companies like Procter and Gamble are the largest threat to Unilever’s success, the company has a different take. They believe that small, local retailers are actually the most likely ones to take a bite out of their profits.
Perhaps this is why so many of Unilever’s brands lean into marketing that works to create community rather than feel sales-driven. In this way, they can attempt to level the playing field by presenting themselves as just another down-to-Earth brand.
This illusion has been shattered a number of times, though. Most recently, Unilever was called out for their lack of actual effort toward achieving sustainability. In response, Unilever recently vowed to slash their brands’ use of plastic massively, which may turn the tide in their favor.
As of 2019, Unilever sits at 167 on the Fortune 500 (down 14 spots from the previous year), so moves like these will likely prove critical to their continued success.
It’s hard to know just what the future has in store for Unilever, but it’s certain that this company isn’t going down any time soon.