ECONOMY

Unilever demonstrates its rediscovered faith in Greece

Greece?s strategic significance for multinational firm Unilever is about to get a boost, as the Anglo-Dutch group intends to transfer part of its production from other European countries to its Greek units.

Three years after deciding to sell Elais, a traditional Greek food brand, Unilever is effectively moving in the opposite direction: Not only has it decided to stay in Greece, but it will also increase its investment in this country as it believes that production here can be very competitive with the use of local raw materials.

The experiment of transferring some of its production to Greece has already started in the ice-cream sector. The plant of dairy company Evga, whose brand was acquired by Elais-Unilever Hellas in 2010, produces not only Evga ice creams but also a number of Algida products for the Greek market that until recently were imported, as well as an increasing part of production destined for the Italian market.

Sources close to the management of the Unilever subsidiary in Greece say the group aims to transfer part of its production in other product categories, such as laundry detergents and cosmetics, from France, Spain and possibly Germany. Some of those moves may even take place within the year using existing Elais-Unilever Hellas units or in cooperation with other local companies.

Spyros Desyllas, the head of Elais-Unilever Hellas, stressed the added significance that the Greek plants are taking on at Unilever, during a special event held at the Rendi plant, near Piraeus, on Wednesday to celebrate 60 years since Klinex chlorine bleach was introduced to the local market. ?We are constantly increasing our use of Greek raw materials, while at this factory there are products made for export to other countries, which serves to strengthen its strategic importance for the Unilever group,? he said.

The production capacity in household cleaning products comes to 45,000 tons per year on three production lines, one of which produces items for foreign markets. Such products are exported to 10 countries, while Elais-Unilever Hellas exports to a total of 18 countries: the USA, Canada, Venezuela, China, Egypt, South Africa, Ireland, Britain, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Albania, Cyprus, Australia, Russia, Lithuania and Serbia.

The group?s main investment moves in Greece in recent years have been the opening of a new unit for margarine production at the Rendi plant, which began operating in 2010, the acquisition of Evga in the same year, the buyout of the personal hygiene arm of Sara Lee (except for the Sanex brand) and the construction of a new distribution center at Schimatari, north of Athens, whose official opening is expected in the coming weeks.

In total the group has three plants, at Rendi, Neo Faliro and Gastouni in the western Peloponnese. Last year it posted a marginal turnover increase in Greece, rising from 546.7 million euros in 2010 to 547.8 million in 2011.