14 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Local Products Spur Unilever Growth

UNILEVER Zimbabwe says 50 percent of its turnover is now from locally manufactured products, after the gradual increase in production since 2009. In an interview with Herald Business, Unilever managing director Mrs Nancy Guzha said when the company started operations after dollarisation, most of their products were imported because the manufacturing plant was obsolete after 10 years in the doldrums.

But the company had installed new machinery and steadily increased production.

"In 2009, we put in a state-of-the-art facility in Zimbabwe that makes all our savouries - Royco Usavi Mix.

"Year on year we have made investments into the factory and modernised it. We started to manufacture most of our brands locally," she said.

Mrs Guzha said currently all the "money drivers" - Keybar, Geisha soap and Royco Usavi Mix - were being manufactured locally. She said the other 50 percent of the company's turnover came from imports, which they could not produce locally.

"If we see that by using an antiquated factory, we would compromise the quality of the brand, we will bring the product in from whichever factory produces the best quality," she said.

Unilever is currently operating at 45 percent capacity. Mrs Guzha said they realised that using an antiquated factory would cost more money and they were slowly investing in the factory and modernising the operations.

The company employs more than 700 workers on contract and on a permanent basis while a further 400 people are employed as merchandisers and service providers.

Mrs Guzha said Unilever was aggressive in terms of marketing their products.

"We are doing so much but we don't speak about it too much. Look at our brands - they are known by everyone. For example, everyone calls washing powder 'Surf'. If I were to go into a few households, randomly, I would definitely find Vim, Handy Andy and Sunlight. We are comfortable that we are here to stay. We are part of the brand of Zimlife," she said.

Mrs Guzha said although the company had been affected by the influx of cheap imports, which had crippled the manufacturing industry over the past 10 years, Unilever had fought to defend its brands.

Mrs Guzha said Unilever Zimbabwe had become one of the three biggest spenders in the country and one of the best - if not the best - performing Unilever companies in Africa.

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