June 24, 2011 / 11:09 AM / 8 years ago

Unilever to focus on product categories rather than regions

Unilever Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman speaks at the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010 in New York June 24, 2010. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

LONDON (Reuters) - Consumer goods group Unilever Plc/NV (ULVR.L) (UNc.AS) is to focus on product categories rather than geographic regions in a management shakeup the Anglo-Dutch group says is aimed at driving growth especially in emerging markets.

The maker of Dove soap and Knorr soups is to scrap its three-region structure and single-product category heads, with new Chief Operating Officer Harish Manwani taking charge of all markets and four product category heads.

It said the heads of the category groups will report directly to Chief Executive Paul Polman and would give a closer focus on emerging markets, which account for over half of group sales and have been growing annually at nearly 10 percent.

“We believe this continues the significant improvement in the internal organisation of Unilever which we believe has hindered Unilever’s ability to compete historically and should create a simpler, faster and more effective organisation,” said analyst Graham Jones at brokerage Panmure Gordon.

Manwani will move to new role on September 1 from his current job as head of Unilever’s biggest region Asia, Africa and central and eastern Europe, with heads of countries or groups of countries reporting to him.

The four new product categories include personal care — consisting of skin, deodorant, oral and hair products — home care, food and its ice cream and beverage business which is to be called refreshment.

The former head of global categories, Michael Polk, is to leave Unilever to become president and chief executive of U.S. consumer products group Newell Rubbermaid Inc NWL.N from July 18.

Reporting by David Jones; Editing by David Holmes

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