Despite increased demand for its soap brands, Unilever’s CEO said the U.K. consumer products firm is not benefiting from the coronavirus crisis.
In an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” on Tuesday (April 14), Unilever CEO Alan Jope said while many of its brands are experiencing a boost in demand, its home and restaurant food products are tanking.
“Coronavirus is not good news for Unilever,” he told the network. “Yes, we’re seeing increases in demand in some of the hygiene products ... We’re seeing a shift in demand for sure. We’re seeing a big reduction in out-of-home food consumption of ice cream and restaurant products.”
Unilever, based in London, manufactures Dove, Breeze and Axe products, but it also makes Klondike bars, Popsicles, Breyers, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Asked about panic buying and hoarding of supplies, Jope said the behavior is an American phenomenon.
“Only in the U.S. are we seeing this kind of dramatic pantry loading,” he told the cable station. “I think the U.S. consumer has typically a bigger house and more appetite for credit card debt than elsewhere in the world.”
While the United Kingdom saw some stocking-up behavior, Jope said, it was much less so in the rest of Europe.
Last month, Jope pledged $549 million to support companies doing business with Unilever. He said provided early payment for what he called “our vulnerable small and medium-sized suppliers.”
The donations were designed to help firms stay liquid by extending credit to selected small-scale retail customers whose business relies on Unilever, to help them manage and protect jobs.
In addition, the company donated $109 million in free soap, sanitizer, bleach and food to customers and communities. About half of the gift went to the COVID Action Platform of the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit supporting global health organizations in response to the crisis, he said.
Last fall, Jope said Unilever’s sales on Amazon are insignificant since most of its products sold on the website are priced below $10.