1970 - 1979: Diversifying in a tough climate
During the 1970s, hard economic conditions – including high inflation in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis – leads to flat sales.
The growth of large retailers including supermarkets also starts a shift in negotiating power away from manufacturers.
So Unilever continues to build consumer goods businesses in sectors including transport and packaging and has a major thrust into North America with the purchase of National Starch. Fortunately the subsidiary United Africa Company yields large profits in oil-booming Nigeria, helping balance out the costs of businesses in Europe and the United States.
But while Unilever continues to diversify in the 1970s, it stops expanding along the supply chain as third party suppliers become larger and better equipped to take over non-core tasks.
Unilever acquires the meat business Zwanenberg's at Oss, which would eventually become the Unilever meat group UVG.
Lipton International is acquired and Unilever's tea business becomes one of the largest in the world.
Impulse deodorant is launched, starting in South Africa. By 1985 it will be sold in 30 countries.
Mentadent is launched in Austria as a revolutionary gum health brand.
Frigo ice cream is acquired in Spain.
Unilever's subsidiary, the United Africa Company, becomes UAC International – having expanded since its inception in the 1920s to trade in 43 countries.
By now, across the nine members of the European Economic Community, Unilever employs nearly 177,000 people in 200 offices and factories, investing in fixed assets at a rate of about UK £30million a year and spending about UK £1bn on supplies.
Signalling intentions to increase its presence in the US, Unilever acquires National Starch, a leading producer of adhesives, starch and speciality organic chemicals. It's the largest acquisition by a European company in the US at this time.