Case Study

Unilever Ice Cream Europe (A): Taking on the challenges of complexity

7 pages
December 2009
Reference: IMD-3-2082

In 2001 the profitability and market share of the Unilever Ice Cream Europe (ICE) business were under pressure. ICE was the leader in its industry, with twice the market share of its nearest competitor, but the company was not capturing the full value of its leadership. Overall profitability and the underlying sales growth figures were both below the Unilever average. Kees van der Graaf, appointed in 2001 to head the Unilever Ice Cream and Frozen Foods business in Europe (ICFE), faced the challenge of fixing the business which meant revolutionizing the company’s position in this market. Kees prepared to bring together his top leaders from across the organization to address the first key challenge which was to identify and address the root causes of the issues facing the business. From this opening in the A-case, the 5 part case and video series aims to bring participants on the two year journey which Unilever Ice Cream undertook to address the challenges of complexity and successfully improve both growth and profitability.

Learning Objective

Each step in this case and video series builds on the previous one, introducing new challenges, discussion points and learning. Participants begin in the A-case by exploring the challenges of complexity facing Unilever Ice Cream, and can have useful discussions around the causes of complexity, the impact of complexity on the business and the challenges in reducing complexity. These issues and discussions can be directly related to similar challenges facing their own businesses. As the participants move on in the journey with subsequent cases and video footage, they are able to explore how the company successfully tackled complexity, the leadership and organizational challenges it faced in doing so and how these were overcome.

Complexity, Simplicity, Change, Growth, Profitability, Must-win Battles, Food
2001 -- 2003
Field Research
© 2009
Available Languages
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