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Twenty-five years after Hein Schumacher spent time at a Dove soap factory in southern Germany as part of a graduate traineeship at Unilever, he is returning as chief executive to scrub up the consumer goods group. The maker of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Hellmann’s mayonnaise has turned to the 51-year-old head of a Dutch dairy co-operative to succeed Alan Jope, after strategic missteps and financial underperformance made it a target for activist investor Nelson Peltz.
Schumacher, who takes the helm in July after current boss Alan Jope retires, will inherit an underperforming company. Unilever has delivered volume and product mix growth of 1.8 per cent a year on average since 2003, compared with Nestle’s 3 per cent, according to analysis by Jefferies. The shares have reflected Unilever’s lacklustre performance.