Unilever Corporate History

This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

Unilever was formed out of a 1929 merger of a British soapmaker and a Dutch margarine producer. Palm oil was a major ingredient in both products, so the merger made perfect sense from a business standpoint. When the company merged, it gained the need to import palm oil in larger quantities which in turn drove down the price.

Unilever grew throughout the 1930s, expanding into Latin America and Africa, but the Second World War ate into its opportunities. Unilever wasn’t able to invest in European infrastructure, so it began buying up companies instead. It bought TJ Lipton, and the owner of the Birds Eye brand.

It took on the management of its subsidiaries itself, but realized after its American branches were failing that it might benefit from a hands-off approach. It soon launched the Dove brand in 1957, and it renamed Frosted Foods formally to Birds Eye.

Most of Unilever’s profits up to the 1960s came from its usage of fats, and its laundry detergent divisions. It slowly climbed its way into the ice cream market, and increased its market share in skin care products as well.

Unilever today is a household brand in every sense of the word. There are few products below a kitchen sink and even in the refrigerator that the company does not produce. It has even moved into other countries like Russia and China looking to expand its market share. Unilever operates factories or companies on every continent except for Antarctica.

Samuel Phineas Upham

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Facebook page.