Sales of cleaning products amid outbreak buoy Unilever

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Increased sales of cleaning and hygiene products helped compensate falling demand for foods like ice cream amid the coronavirus crisis as consumer products giant Unilever recorded first-quarter sales unchanged from the same period a year ago.

As the crisis sparked lockdowns around the globe and sparked panic buying in some countries, the Anglo-Dutch company whose products include Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lipton teas and Dove soaps felt both the upside and downside.

CEO Alan Jope said “we see upswings in sales of hygiene and in-home food products, combined with some household stocking, and near cessation of out of home consumption which is particularly affecting our food service and ice cream business.”

Underlying sales growth was flat, with a 0.2% rise in sales volumes offset by a 0.2% decline in price. Turnover amounted to 12.4 billion euros ($13.4 billion).

Jope said the company is adapting to new patterns in demand and “preparing for lasting changes in consumer behavior, in each country, as we move out of the crisis and into recovery.”

Amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis, the company withdrew its growth and margin outlook for the year.

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