THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jan 30 – Anglo-Dutch consumer giant Unilever said Thursday it is reviewing its global tea business including Lipton and PG Tips after sales went off the boil, while eyeing the “unknown” impact of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Sales of black tea, source of the humble cuppa, have dipped in the developed world as consumers instead lap up fruit and herbal teas, the Rotterdam-based firm said as it released its annual results.
“We are continuing to evaluate our portfolio and have initiated a strategic review of our global tea business,” chief executive Alan Jope said in a statement.
Unilever says it is the world’s biggest tea company with brands that also include Brooke Bond, Bushells and Pukka.
“Tea saw price-led growth, however volumes declined due to subdued consumer demand for black tea in developed markets,” Unilever said.
“We continued to focus on the growing segments of premium black tea, black tea in emerging markets and fruit and herbal variants, with our premium herbal brand Pukka performing well,” it added.
The firm, whose products also include Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and yeast spread Marmite, reported a 38.4 percent slump in profits to six billion euros ($6.5 billion) in 2019 after a disappointing fourth quarter.
Unilever also forecast that sales growth for 2020 would be in the “lower-half” of its multi-year projection of between three and five percent, falling further below that for the first half of the year.
“The impact of the coronavirus outbreak is unknown at this time,” the Unilever statement said.
The novel coronavirus which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan has so far claimed 170 lives while more than 7,000 people have been infected, according to Chinese authorities.