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Unilever triumphs in 2008 with double digit growth

Despite the tough economic environment in 2008 with inflation reaching record highs, Unilever Sri Lanka delivered outstanding results on all fronts of the business. The company achieved its seventh consecutive year of double-digit growth and maintained its overall market dominance.

Despite the tough economic environment in 2008 with inflation reaching record highs, Unilever Sri Lanka delivered outstanding results on all fronts of the business. The company achieved its seventh consecutive year of double-digit growth and maintained its overall market dominance.

In 2008, the retail business which includes popular brands such as Sunlight, Signal, Astra, Lifebuoy etc., recorded an impressive 20%+ growth whilst the turnover from its tea export business recorded a growth 17%. Using sharply targeted micro-marketing initiatives, Unilever was able to gain market share in key categories and channels, and thereby, maintain its overall market dominance. The impact of cost increases were mitigated to a great extent through an aggressive cost effectiveness drive, thereby minimising the burden to consumers. Nevertheless, the high inflation and the challenging economic conditions led to some dilution in profitability.

On the product marketing front, Unilever again recorded significant gains. Sunlight, the flagship brand of the company, which will incidentally celebrate its 125th anniversary this year, reported remarkable success by exceeding for the first time in its history, a sales turnover of Rs. 5Bn. Their Home Care business which includes Surf, Rin, Sunlight, Vim and Comfort brands grew by an impressive 24%, whilst Foods and Personal Care businesses grew by 22%.

The company lived up to its mission to add vitality to life and continued to deliver products of great quality and value. A series of new products were launched last year, while many within its existing range were refreshed and relaunched.

The new introductions included the Lipton Green Tea range and the Ponds ‘7 Day Miracle’ anti-ageing skin care range. Demonstrating Unilever’s superlative technical capability, Signal Complete 12, the first tri-colour toothpaste in Sri Lanka and globally Unilever’s best toothpaste to date was launched.

The well established leader in the Hair Care market Sunsilk was relaunched giving Sri Lankan consumers the opportunity to experience its globally acclaimed formulations and packagingConsumers have in turn accepted the superiority of Sunsilk, confirmed by Sunsilk’s significant gains in market share, cementing its market leadership.

It is quite evident that Unilever takes CSR as seriously as it takes its marketing and other business initiatives. Last year too, its CSR efforts covered a wide spectrum of community development programmes. The Lifebuoy Global Hand Wash Day on October 15, 2008 saw a million Sri Lankan children across 1,500 schools being introduced to good practice in basic health & hygiene.

The Pears ‘Safe Hands’ fund continued its quest to upgrade maternity and children’s wards across the country. Equally significant and perhaps even more unique is the approach Unilever Sri Lanka took with the launch of an employee volunteer programme named `Mehewara’ to provide its employees an opportunity to contribute their time and effort towards helping the community.

Also in order to move towards ‘greener manufacturing’, an investment of Rs. 108 Mn. is being made on installing a bio-mass boiler at the Grandpass factory, which would make 85% of its energy needs carbon neutral. Over the last four years, through various energy reduction initiatives, the factory has already reduced its energy consumption by 25%.

In another pioneering initiative, Unilever created employee management history in Sri Lanka by introducing ‘workforce categorisation’. This unique concept is aimed at knowledge and capability enhancement leading to performance based career progression for the workforce. This initiative has been overwhelmingly acclaimed by the Commissioner of Labour and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon as a project that will contribute towards the accelerated evolution of workforce development in Sri Lanka’s manufacturing industry.

Commenting on the company’s future plans in the face of a potentially even more difficult and challenging year ahead, Amal Cabraal, Chairman Unilever Sri Lanka stated, “Oursingle minded focus is on growth but this year more than in any of the previous years, we will have to declare a ‘war on costs’.

The medium term goal is to make Unilever Sri Lanka, a Rs. 30 billion company by the year 2010, which will make it 5 times bigger than what it was in the year 2000. This drive will continue to be based on our growth mantra; growth of our brands, the growth of our people and the growth of our links with the community we serve”. “In 2009, Unilever Sri Lanka completes 70 years of manufacturing presence in Sri Lanka.

This milestone will be a great opportunity for us to recommit to operations in Sri Lanka and to ensure our vital presence in this nation for another 70 years and more”, he concluded.

Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd.

258 M. Vincent Perera Mw

Colombo 14

Sri Lanka

+94 (0) 11 4700 800

communications.usl@unilever.com

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