Unilever could offload historic spreads division in bid to keep shareholders happy

Flora: re-positioned last year to appeal to fans of 'plant-based' food
Flora: re-positioned last year to appeal to fans of 'plant-based' food

Unilever is considering steps including selling its spreads business, which includes the Flora and Stork brands, as it responds to the upheaval caused by Kraft Heinz's surprise takeover attempt.

Chief executive Paul Polman is considering how to appease shareholders who believed Unilever should have engaged with Kraft Heinz over the £115bn bid, The Guardian reports.

Investors in the company were divided over the approach took by Polman, with a survey carried out by investment house Bernstein suggesting that half believed Unilever should have held talks with Kraft Heinz.

Although Flora is one of Unilever's billion-dollar brands, factors such as changing consumer habits mean that it has struggled in recent years.

Flora sales in the UK fell 12% last year to £126.4m, while sales of Unilever's other spreads brands Bertolli, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, which was renamed I Can't Believe It's so Good for Everything, and Stork, were all down too.

A move to offload the business would have symbolic significance, though, as margarine was one of the two original products sold by Unilever, which was formed in 1929 by the merger of Dutch company Margarine Unie and British soapmaker Lever Brothers.

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