Unilever has rejected claims made by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper at the weekend, which suggested it was seeking to offload its PG Tips and Lipton brands, amid falling sales for the tea category.
As a spokesperson for the company told the paper, "Contrary to reports, we are not exploring a sale of our tea business. PG Tips and Lipton are very popular brands, and although growth of black tea in developed markets has slowed down, we said publicly earlier this month to investors that we are focused on turning this around, while also expanding the brands into herbal teas and other segments that are growing."
According to the Sunday Telegraph, quoting Kantar data, sales of black tea bags fell 3.4% in the UK last year.
Unilever has made a number of strategic divestments in the past couple of years – its margarine arm, which includes the Flora brand, was sold to KKR in a deal that was finally completed at the start of this year, while it sold its Chicken Tonight brand to Zwanenberg in September, in what the consumer goods giant described as an "appropriate and logical step".
In its third quarter results, Unilever made reference to the challenges in its tea division, saying. 'Tea saw modest growth driven by our ongoing focus on premium black tea, black tea in emerging markets, and fruit and herbal variants.
'This growth was partially offset by subdued consumer demand for black tea in developed markets. Herbal brand Pukka grew well, while in India our efforts to develop the green tea market with new Lipton variants are driving share and penetration levels for the category.'
© 2019 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.