Unilever Boosted by Cleaners and Ice Cream During Pandemic

Unilever’s growth accelerated in the third quarter, driven by demand for hygiene products and comfort foods like ice cream as the pandemic fuels gains at consumer-goods giants.

The 4.4% increase in underlying sales at the owner of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Lifebuoy soap beat the 1.8% consensus analyst forecast. The strong performance echoes results from other makers of food and cleaning products.

Procter & Gamble Co. earlier this week raised its earnings forecast after netting its fastest sales growth since 2005, and Lysol maker Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc said revenue through 2020 will increase by the most in at least a decade, excluding the impact of currencies. Nestle SA reported strong sales of Purina pet food.

Pernod Ricard SA and Hermes International also issued upbeat reports Thursday as demand for drinks and handbags revives.

Unilever shares gained 0.9% in early London trading.

Shoppers stocked up on germ-killing products as the company cut prices in its home-care division. Unilever started selling Domestos bleach in China and a new Omo laundry detergent in Latin America.

Underlying sales of Unilever’s skin-cleansing products increased almost 20%. Growth was supported by Dove’s entry into the antibacterial segment, and the extension of Lifebuoy into new formats.

Lifebuoy is now one of about a dozen brands in the company with revenue of more than 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) after Unilever introduced it in more markets such as the U.K., where it’s advertising the product with free hand sanitizer stations at Tesco Plc supermarkets.

Home Dining

Growth in the food and refreshments arm was held back by restaurant closures, but the unit was boosted by at-home consumption of ice cream and other packaged goods.

Consumers stocked up at supermarkets and online, with Unilever’s e-commerce business growing 76% in the quarter, with revenue of about 3.7 billion euros.

Growth in Latin America was strong, in part due to cash payments the Brazilian government handed out to communities in need, Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said on a call with reporters. That support is expect to taper off slightly in the fourth quarter.

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