1980 - 1989: Focusing on the core

At the start of the 1980s, Unilever is the world's 26th largest business.

Stork advert from the 1980s

Its interests include plastics, packaging, tropical plantations and a shipping line, as well as a wide range of foods, home and personal care products.

Early in the decade in a bold change of strategy it decides to refocus on core product areas with strong markets and equally strong growth potential. The necessary rationalisation leads to large acquisitions and equally large divestments, including the sale of animal feeds, packaging, transport and fish farming businesses.

But by 1989 the resulting growth of core businesses is clearly evident.



Viennetta ice cream gateaux is first launched, starting in Britain as a Christmas speciality.


Axe body spray for men (Lynx in the UK) is first launched, starting in France.


Unilever announces its Core Business Strategy and large acquisitions and disposals follow over next decade.

Brooke Bond is acquired in Unilever's first hostile take-over.


Unipath launches a home pregnancy testing kit Clearblue, which is sold through pharmaceutical outlets in Britain.


The acquisition of Naarden doubles Unilever's business in fragrances and food flavours. Chesebrough-Pond's, which owns Pond's and Vaseline, is acquired in the US.


Dove is relaunched in Europe, starting in Italy.


Calvin Klein and Elizabeth Arden/Fabergé are acquired while Magnum ice cream is launched in Germany.

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