Schumacher, who has previously worked at Unilever as finance manager at the turn of the millennium, made his name during more than 10 years at H.J. Heinz, where he rose through the ranks from Finance Director, Netherlands, to Zone President, Asia Pacific. For the past eight years, he has worked at Dutch multi-national dairy co-operative FrieslandCampina, in the roles of chief financial officer and most recently, chief executive.
During his time as CEO, Schumacher has taken a strategic course to streamline the co-op’s operations - including divesting part of FrieslandCampina’s German consumer business and closing several production plants in the Netherlands and Thailand. At the same time, the co-op has strengthened its infant nutrition business – which recorded an operating profit of €107m, up from €22m YOY - and has made efforts on the sustainability front, committing to SBTi-validated targets and announcing a pilot program designed to reduce nitrogen on dairy farms. Meanwhile, the co-op’s net profit rose by €77m to €139m, while operating profit increased from €130m to €328m.
As Unilever CEO, Schumacher will receive annual fixed pay of €1.85m, be eligible to receive annual bonus and performance share plan awards, and relocation support. He will also receive share-based awards to replace the loss of incentive payments from his previous employer.
“We are delighted to welcome Hein as our new chief executive, after an extensive, global search process,” commented Unilever chairman, Nils Andersen. “Hein is a dynamic, values-driven business leader who has a diverse background of experiences and an excellent track record of delivery in the global consumer goods industry. He has exceptional strategic capabilities, proven operational effectiveness, and strong experience in both developed and developing markets. The Board looks forward to Hein realising the full potential of Unilever as a winning business which delivers long-term growth and value for all its stakeholders.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Alan for his leadership of Unilever. The changes he has made to the company’s strategy, structure and organisation leave Unilever far better positioned for success. Alan will continue to lead Unilever until the end of June. He will be retiring after a tremendous 37-year career with our business.”
Schumacher said: “I am delighted to have been appointed to lead Unilever. It is a business with an impressive global footprint, a strong brand portfolio, a talented team and an enviable reputation as a leader in sustainability. In my time serving on the Board, I have only become more convinced by the strength of Unilever’s fundamentals and its clear growth potential. I will be very focused on working with the Unilever team to deliver a step-up in business performance, as we serve the billions of people around the world who use its products every day.”
The announcement sets up outgoing Unilever CEO Alan Jope for an early retirement. The outgoing chief exec said in September 2022 that he would step down from his role at Unilever at the end of 2023, but his final day has now been confirmed as July 1, 2023.
There will be a one-month handover prior to this, Unilever has said.
Jope will exit after a difficult period at the helm of the food group. Unilever was embroiled in a legal conflict with Ben & Jerry’s over the sale of its Israeli ice cream business - an affair that has been settled out of court - and failed to acquire GlaxoSmithKline plc, which rejected three Unilever offers that were thought to have ‘fundamentally undervalued the consumer healthcare business and its future prospects’.
Jope had also been criticized over Unilever sustainability focus, with influential fund manager Terry Smith writing: “Unilever seems to be labouring under the weight of a management which is obsessed with publicly displaying sustainability credentials at the expense of focusing on the fundamentals of the business.”
The outgoing CEO however defended the strategy, stating: “Consumers, particularly young people, are making brand choices based on the social and environmental impact. Our sustainable brands that outperform on environmental or social contribution are growing much faster than the rest of our portfolio.” He also claimed that brands including Magnum ice cream had saved €1.2bn through energy efficiency measures.
Jope was also behind the decision to base Unilever in the UK, instead of operating a UK-Netherlands structure.