November 25, 2019 / 9:44 AM / 20 days ago

Unilever denies reports that its tea business is up for sale

Nov 25 (Reuters) - Unilever Plc on Monday denied that its tea business was up for sale, following reports over the weekend that the consumer goods giant was looking to unload the division that sells PG Tips and Lipton brands due to cooling demand for black tea.

"Contrary to reports, we are not exploring a sale of our tea business," a Unilever spokeswoman told Reuters.

"PG Tips and Lipton are very popular brands, and although growth of black tea in developed markets has slowed down,...we are focused on turning this around, while also expanding the brands into herbal teas and other segments that are growing," she said.

The Telegraph here reported late on Saturday that Unilever was exploring a sale, in the face of waning demand for teas in western markets such as the United Kingdom, where black tea bag sales fell 3.4% last year.

Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope earlier this month said that demand for black teas in developed markets was "off trend", and that getting people to drink PG Tips was "not a quick fix", but that the company was invested in turning around the business over the longer term.

The company has been beefing up its tea portfolio buying the British organic tea brand Pukka herbs in 2017 and Tazo from Starbucks in the same year. The company does not break out sales of its tea business separately.

Unilever shares were down 0.2% at 4,508.5 pence in morning trading on Monday. The stock is up nearly 10% this year. (Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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