Unilever Sees a Poorer Future for Europe

It's one thing for economists, pundits and politicians to gaze into their crystal balls and predict the future; they just don't have that much on the line. Sure, they have reputations to maintain, but those don't seem to suffer too terribly even when people are wrong time and again. If Paul Krugman can hold a gig at the New York Times after lo these many years, the consequences for being completely out of touch with reality are clearly not too high. But when people bet real money on their forecasts, you know they have faith in what they see. And what Unilever, the consumer goods giant, sees, is a Europe that's getting poorer.

From the London Daily Telegraph:

Unilever will adopt marketing strategies used in developing countries in order to drive future growth in Europe, as the head of its European business warned that poverty will rise in the region as a result of the debt crisis.

The company behind Persil, PG Tips and Flora said it will apply lessons from its Asian business as consumers change their shopping habits amid a financial crisis that has left Greece mired in recession for the past five years and Spain with the highest unemployment rate in the industrialised world.

"Poverty is returning to Europe," Jan Zijderveld, the head of Unilever's European business told the Financial Times Deutschland in an interview.

"If a consumer in Spain only spends €17 when they go shopping, then I'm not going to be able to sell them washing powder for half of their budget."

Unilever's new strategy is to offer low-cost brands and smaller serving sizes at affordable prices. Affordable even, that is, to the cash-poor Europeans that the British-Dutch company's economists see in the future.

There's no guarantee that Unilever is more right than any of the other crystal-ball gazers, but the company is putting its money where its predictions are.

(H/T: Lord Humungus)

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  • SugarFree||

    (H/T: The Luscious Lord Humungus)

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, wrong. There is one proper way to introduce Lord Humungous: "The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!"

  • Brett L||

    I thought Mario van Peebles was the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla.

  • Pro Libertate||

    What a puny plan.

  • OldMexican||

    "Poverty is returning to Europe," Jan Zijderveld, the head of Unilever's European business told the Financial Times Deutschland in an interview.


    But only because of those do-nothing Republicans!

    "If a consumer in Spain only spends €17 when they go shopping, then I'm not going to be able to sell them washing powder for half of their budget."


    Besides the fact the Spanish don't bathe... often. Worse for soap manufacturers!

  • Mike M.||

    The evil Grover Norquist's reach is greater than anyone can possibly imagine!

  • SugarFree||

    Europe Falling Into Abject Poverty; Soap Makers Hit Hardest"

  • OldMexican||

    Unilever will adopt marketing strategies used in developing countries in order to drive future growth in Europe[.]


    The much-vaunted European Socialism just an innocent bystander, will claim many adoring fans... until their last lying breath.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's quite distressing to see Europe in such straits, as we're heading the same direction. Not to mention that the region is a major trading partner.

    This isn't going to end well, is it?

  • Restoras||

    Interestingly enough, while on vacation last week I happened upon a History Channel documentary (grain of salt) on the French Revolution.

    Disastrous economic policies combined with hunger ended poorly.

    Combined with the fact that our own fiscal situation appears to be resembling that of Wiemar Germany with each passing day, in terms of what is owed to outside creditors, our own situation is likely to end poorly as well.

    Question is, when do we reach the tipping point? Could be a-hwile given that capital flight from Europe is likely to boost/inflate asset prices denominated in US dollars.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We've been given a reprieve by the ailing of most of the rest of the world. Also, even with all of the insanely over-the-top government spending and regulation here, we still have a huge economy that can withstand quite a bit of parasitism.

    Still, the question isn't if. It's when. Unless we change course very soon.

  • Brett L||

    As a friend of mine likes to say, "When the world economy finally collapses, we'll be on the top of the pile but still neck deep in shit."

  • ||

    I'm afraid that it's only the perceived strength of the US dollar and the federal government's unlimited credit that's keeping us ahead of the game.

    Just when the crash that the Austrians and hard money cranks predict should have happened Uncle Sam always seems to be able to inflate and borrow his way out of it.

    When the perception changes and the credit gets a limit it may be that Uncle Sam won't be able to inflate and borrow his way out of it. And then we'll find out the Austrians and hard money cranks were right after all.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    It's not socialism that's hurting Europe.

    It's those damn banks.

    /Leftists

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It is the damn banks in collusion with the damn government to pay off the damn debt that was incurred to buy the vote of the damn socialists.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    One thing it seems that you left out is the idea that economists, pols, and pundits are, unfortunately, not paid to be correct, but to set up a frame they can hang their narrative on.

    For instance, Krugabe isn't paid for his economic forecasting ability, but on his ability to use economics to justify Team BLUE policies. Mad Cow isn't paid for her political prescience, but "her" ability to draw attention away from what's actually going on so that her viewers will focus on whatever Team BLUE talking point is the flavor du jour.

    These people don't make any money from being right, but on their ability to create cover for the policies of their Team.

  • sarcasmic||

    Keynesian economic theory is nothing more than an "academic" excuse for politicians to spend money and grow government.

  • BarryD||

    Could academics and Northeastern "liberals" please stop talking about Europe like it's heaven on earth, now?

    Seriously, they spent Spring Break in Amsterdam once, totally high the whole time, and ever since then have thought that we should do things like Europe does because it's great.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    There are lots of places in Europe that are great.

    None of them so because of government policy.

  • BarryD||

    Sure, but it's the government policy they want to copy.

  • SKR||

    Amsterdam was one of the places where I thought,"dear god why do people want this in the us?"

  • BarryD||

    Evidently you weren't nearly high enough.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    You shittin' me?

    Amsterdam is a great fucking town, no pun intended.

  • R C Dean||

    I'm with the mad guy. Amsterdam is a wonderful place.

    Like all big cities, everywhere and always, its more wonderful the more money you have, of course.

  • Randian||

    I like Europe. Not as much as the United States, but I am not going to go Full Retard Freedom Fries about it, either.

  • BarryD||

    Sure. There's a lot to like. Replace European governments and much of Europe would be nearly flawless. It's sure not the Alps, the Mediterranean coastline, or the great wine that are the problem. :)

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    The company behind Persil, PG Tips and Flora

    The what, the what, and the what?

    Honestly I have no idea what those things are. Are they products I can buy at my local (American) supermarket?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I thought PG Tips were you something picked up from your local hooker.

  • ||



    Persil (also known as Dixan, Wipp, or LeChat) is a brand of laundry detergent currently and originally made by Henkel Cie; but which is now also licensed for manufacture, distribution, and marketing in several countries by Unilever.


    You cannot buy it at your local supermarket but you can at Amazon, though for the life of me I can't imagine why you would want to. Unless you think your friends will be impressed by your using fancy European detergent.

    Persil used to be sold in Australia. I don't know if it still is. Oz is not on wiki's list.

  • ||

    The amazing google also tels me that PG Tips are a brnad of tea bags and Flora is a line of cooking oils and spreads.

    PG Tips is available at Amazon, probably at a huge premium over perfectly serviceable American tea bags but no price is too high to demonstrate your european sophistication. :)

  • Lord Humungus||

    PG Tips are also available at our local grocery store - in the "International Foods" aisle. Where else can you get spotted dick?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    PG Tips is working class tea.

  • ||

    Maybe, but American liberals are impressed by all things European.

    American liberals are, of course, as frightfully ignorant as the rest of us. It's just that, unlike the rest of us, they can't see it.

  • ||

    I don't know, but I go to The British Shoppe to buy Black Pudding.

  • kinnath||

    Only idiots ever thought Europe was better off than the US.

    We have subsidiaries in England and France. Whenever, engineers from those facilities come here to meet with us, they schedule time to go shopping at Best Buy and other high tech vendors. That, and they buy dozens of batteries to take home with them.

  • Mike M.||

    And yet we have a fucking president who is determined to do everything he possibly can to turn the United States into Spain.

  • kinnath||

    Obama seeks to bring the worst characteristics of the mediterranean basin to America -- the employment rate of Spain, the job security practices of France, the governmental prowess of Italy, and the business environment of Greece.

  • Brett L||

    If only our government were as incompetent as Italy's.

  • kinnath||

    If we could change POTUS six or seven times each decade, we probably would be better off.

  • ||

    We can change Congress five times in a decade and it's far more important than the Prezzydink. Or at least it would be if it wasn't filled with a bunch of cowards shirking their constitutional duty and failing to exercize their constitutional powers.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I was thinking about Italy and is strange survival (even semi-prosperity). All in total incompetancy, corruption and political-economic failure. But you know they'll walk away less worse off than everyone else when this is over.

    I was reminded of the old man in whorehouse, arguing with the young airman, in 'Catch 22.'
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeVWupFBkA8
    Weakness can be strength in an insane world.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Come on now, you don't give him enough credit. He's also looking to implement the UK's surveillance state and Belgian-style bureaucracy.

  • kinnath||

    right on both counts

  • BarryD||

    We already have Turkish drug policy.

  • kinnath||

    The list goes on

  • Spoonman.||

    Russian corruption is looking closer every day.

  • Spoonman.||

    I'm trying to write one of those "in heaven...in hell" jokes, but I can't think of anything positive about Greece.

    Or Spain or France...

  • The Hammer||

    Spain and France both still have excellent food. For now.

  • ||

    But, but, but, they get FREE HEALTHCARE!!!!

  • ||

    Every time I go to Europe I get people asking me to bring things like Aspirin, OTC vitamins and dental floss. Apparently all those things cost two to three times as much there.

  • Ken Shultz||

    For Unilever, the long term is two quarters out. Of course Unilever needs to account for where Europe is going to be for the next eight quarters or so. Will poverty rise becasue of the debt crisis?

    Poverty often rises in a downturn.

    Europe may have an advantage over us in that where they're being forced to deal with their overspending, we're actually adding to our spending. Hell, Obama's created whole new classes of entitlements!

    The first step to recovery is getting past the denial and admitting you have a problem. Looks like they're ahead of us in that regard. Our political leadership is still acting like Anthropomorphic Overspending is a hoax.

  • ||

    If Paul Krugman can hold a gig at the New York Times after lo these many years, the consequences for being completely out of touch with reality are clearly not too high.

    Quoted for word.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I'll concede the basic point, but still, this seems to be a relatively low-risk strategy. Even if they're wrong, it's unlikely that their smaller size SKUs will go unsold.

  • ||

    "The much-vaunted European Socialism just an innocent bystander, will claim many adoring fans... until their last lying breath." - Old Mexican

    So...a political/economic philosophy that has been a total fucking disaster every single fucking time it has been tried in the past is turning out to be a total fucking disaster yet again? My god, who could have predicted that?

    This is why I puked the first time I heard maobama say that he sought out marxist professors at university. What a fucking moron. Idiocy topped only by those that voted for him.

  • The Hammer||

    Of course he sought out Marxist professors. Obama's character is like 90% confirmation bias.

  • Cenotaph||

    Silly European company. The American way is to lobby for a law mandating that people buy washing powder.

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