Case | HBS Case Collection | August 1997 (Revised March 1998)

Unilever's Butter-Beater: Innovation for Global Diversity

by Clayton M. Christensen and Jorg Zobel


Unilever, one of the world's largest food product manufacturers, has achieved impressive growth in Europe, primarily by acquiring local food companies. Initially Unilever allowed each acquired company to manage its own product development in a way that was tailored to local tastes and competition. This case describes the struggles that European managers confronted in trying to establish stronger central direction over Pan-European product development, branding, and marketing.

Keywords: Growth Management; Brands and Branding; Product Development; Mergers and Acquisitions; Local Range; Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Issues; Marketing Strategy; Multinational Firms and Management; Innovation and Management; Food; Conflict Management; Food and Beverage Industry; Manufacturing Industry; Europe;


Christensen, Clayton M., and Jorg Zobel. "Unilever's Butter-Beater: Innovation for Global Diversity." Harvard Business School Case 698-017, August 1997. (Revised March 1998.)