Unilever reveals Hein Schumacher will replace Alan Jope as CEO

Unilever reveals Dutch dairy co-operative boss Hein Schumacher as new CEO as Alan Jope exits

  • Schumacher currently runs dairy products supplier Royal FrieslandCampina
  • The Dutch businessman began his career as a finance manager at Unilever
  • Unilever owns Magnum Ice Cream, Dove Soap and Hellman’s Mayonnaise 

Unilever has appointed the head of one of the world’s biggest dairy cooperatives to succeed Alan Jope as its next chief executive. 

Hein Schumacher, 51, currently runs Royal FrieslandCampina, a Dutch dairy and nutrition products supplier with approximately 23,000 employees worldwide and more than €11billion in annual sales.

Before joining the company, he spent over a decade working for H.J. Heinz, famous for its ketchup and baked beans, rising to become its president in China and eventually the whole Asia-Pacific region.

Incoming boss: Hein Schumacher, 51, currently runs Royal FrieslandCampina, a Dutch dairy and nutrition products supplier with more than €11billion in annual sales

The Dutch businessman began his career as a finance manager at Unilever, which appointed him a non-executive director three months ago, and also spent time at retailer Royal Ahold.

He will take charge of the consumer goods giant, owner of brands Magnum Ice Cream, Dove Soap and Hellman’s Mayonnaise, at the beginning of July following a one-month handover period. 

Unilever said Schumacher would receive a €1.85million (£1.62million) annual salary, alongside bonuses and performance-related rewards, as well as share-based awards to supplant the loss of incentive payments from FrieslandCampina. 

Its chairman Nils Andersen said Schumacher is ‘a dynamic, values-driven business leader who has a diverse background of experiences and an excellent track record of delivery in the global consumer goods industry’. 

He added: ‘He has exceptional strategic capabilities, proven operational effectiveness, and strong experience in both developed and developing markets.’

Unilever shares were 0.7 per cent higher at £40.50 on late Monday morning, similar to their value when Scottish-born Jope became chief executive in January 2019.

Jope revealed in September last year that he would stand down amid investor criticism of the firm’s management, including its failed £50billion attempt to buy GSK’s consumer healthcare division.

The pharmaceutical multinational eventually decided to spin off the unit, home to brands like Sensodyne Toothpaste and Corsodyl mouthwash, into a separate listed business known as Haleon.

Fund manager Terry Smith likened the unsuccessful takeover to a ‘near-death experience’ in a letter that also lambasted Unilever’s poor sales growth relative to other fast-moving consumer goods companies.

Smith has further accused the Marmite owner of being ‘obsessed with publicly displaying sustainability credentials’ at the expense of improving more fundamental aspects of the business. 

In its most recent third-quarter results, Unilever revealed turnover climbed by 17.8 per cent year-on-year as price increases and beneficial currency movements offset falling product volumes. 

The group has hiked prices faster than some of its rivals in response to surging energy, wage and food costs, yet this leaves it at major risk of losing customers, according to Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor.

She said: ‘While Unilever is in the consumer staples sector, a part of the market that is typically viewed as relatively resilient to an economic downturn, the business is facing challenges from rising costs and the risk that consumers trade down to unbranded, cheaper alternative products. 

‘Unilever has been trying to offset cost pressures by increasing prices, but this could dampen demand amid the cost-of-living pressures and can weaken relationships with retailers who are also dealing with already squeezed margins.’ 

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