February 17, 2009 / 6:45 PM / 11 years ago

INTERVIEW-UPDATE 1-Unilever taking steps to boost volume

* Making sure prices in line with market

* Sees developing market sales up in local currencies

By Brad Dorfman

BOCA RATON, Fla., Feb 17 (Reuters) - Food and household products maker Unilever Plc (ULVR.L) is taking several steps to try to improve volume after that key measure of products sold actually fell in the fourth quarter.

“The whole management focus is on volume this year, while protecting our margins,” Chief Financial Officer Jim Lawrence said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday. That is a change from last year when the company was focused on getting price increases to deal with soaring commodity cost.

“We may have found ourselves at the end of the year with some of our prices out of line with the market,” Lawrence said prior to addressing analysts at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida.

Home to brands like Lipton tea and Dove beauty care, Unilever is working to get its prices in line with the marketplace in key products and countries, Lawrence said.

The company is focusing on “value” offerings, including possibly putting out smaller packages at lower price points. Unilever is also launching some new products sooner than planned, he said.

Unilever does expect to see more results from advertising and promotional spending, though Lawrence would not quantify how much the company will spend in that area. With advertising rates coming down, the same amount of money can buy more advertising, he said.

Unilever expects sales to increase in developing and emerging markets this year, at least in local currencies, and possibly in euros, Lawrence said. Economies in those markets will grow in 2009 and at a faster rate than in the developed world, he said.

(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

((bradley.dorfman@thomsonreuters.com; +1 312 408 8133; Reuters Messaging: bradley.dorfman.reuters.com@reuters.net; ))

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