Beauty scale

Unilever is changing some ingredients to accommodate raw material shortages

LONDON, June 16 (Reuters) – As raw materials – from crude oil to sunflower oil – remain in short supply, Britain’s Unilever (ULVR.L) has changed the composition of ingredients in some of its products like deodorants and packaged foods to reduce costs and alleviate supply constraints.

The ability to switch ingredients and materials, which consumer goods manufacturers have traditionally found difficult, has become even more valuable after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove commodity prices to high levels. multi-year highs.

In April, Unilever boss Alan Jope said the company had started changing some of its recipes so it could use rapeseed oil instead of sunflower oil, which has become scarce since the invasion. Ukraine typically produces around half of the world’s sunflower oil exports. Read more

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According to Unilever research and development manager Richard Slater, the maker of Dove soap and Knorr bouillon cubes isn’t stopping there.

“Overall there was a silicon shortage, so we looked at our deodorant and made sure we looked at the formulations there…to use fewer ingredients under pressure,” Slater said in an interview.

Unilever, which makes Rexona, Dove, Ax and Lynx deodorants, addressed the issue last year, he said.

In its home care and beauty businesses, the company has also tried to reduce the dependence of its products on petrochemicals and make them more sustainable.

“It’s a double benefit if you can get a better product that’s more durable, but also take the pressure off some of those ingredients under cost pressures,” Slater said.

Many packaged goods makers have tried to wean themselves off palm oil, which has been accused of deforestation and labor abuse but is used in everything from P&G’s Tide pods (PG. N) with Nutella from Ferrero.

On Thursday, Unilever said it had partnered with San Diego-based Genomatica to build and market alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleaning ingredients.

“We’re not talking a few thousand tons here, we’re talking significant commercial scale,” Slater said, declining to provide details on how much of the new ingredient he plans to produce in the near term.

The supply of palm alternatives is also “very important from a supply resilience perspective” due to the prices around the commodity, Slater added.

Unilever no longer relies solely on manual testing when changing formulas. Instead, it digitally models how new ingredients would affect products, Slater said.

For example, he added, as it modifies shampoo recipes, the company uses robots to try dozens of potential differently modeled products on the hair in a matter of hours.

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Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Matt Scuffham and Deepa Babington

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