Arun Sudhaman 21 Nov 2014 // 9:30AM GMT
LONDON—Unilever is in the midst of a lucrative global PR pitch for its struggling spreads business, as it seeks to revive a category that includes key brand Flora.
The Holmes Report understands that the FMCG giant is in the final phase of the process, after considering proposals from a number of firms that work on its global roster. Key Unilever PR agencies include Edelman, GolinHarris, Weber Shandwick, Salt and Blue Rubicon, which works on Flora in the UK.
Budgets are estimated at as much as £1m for the global brief, amid a wider effort to turn around a category that has struggled to grow in recent years.
A source familiar with the situation said that initial talks had focused on the need for a global hub agency, but had since extended to consider local market implementation, which would involve much higher fees.
"They are taking more of a concerted effort to try and unify comms around the world," said the source. "And they are trying to promote the health benefits of the category."
In particular, Unilever has suffered from the perception of 'artificiality' that has plagued its spreads brands, in the face of a revival in butter consumption.
After years of positioning margarine as a healthier and cheaper alternative to butter, Unilever's efforts to revive its spreads category now include a number of blended products which combine margarine with butter. In the US, meanwhile, the company is repositioning its vegetable oil spreads.
The moves come after Unilever's relaunch of billion-euro brand Flora/Becel in 2012 failed to stem declining sales. Despite efforts to turn around the $5bn division, margarines and spreads continue to drag down Unilever growth, but remain highly profitable.
Unilever's recent sales of food businesses, coupled with the slow growth of spreads, has led many analysts to suggest that the company is aiming to offload the spreads business. Unilever claims it has gained share against other margarine brands in the past year, even as the overall market has contracted.
Unilever remains the world's leading maker of spreads, accounting for 30% of the market. Spreads make up around 7% of Unilever's total sales.
Unilever representatives did not respond to request for comment as this story went live.