Consumer giant to close Shelton office, move jobs to NJ
Unilever is closing its Shelton office, with 45 employees to be transferred to its U.S. headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and another 90 being laid off over the coming year after they chose not to move to New Jersey.
It is the latest development in what has been a continued whittling of Unilever’s Connecticut presence. A decade ago the company had more than 1,100 employees at a sprawling Trumbull campus, focused on research and development of personal products along with marketing.
The town of Trumbull reported Unilever’s workforce there at 400 people as of last summer.
Through an external public relations firm, Unilever declined to provide details of the planned closure of the 3 Corporate Drive office in Shelton, a development of R.D. Scinto Inc. The company disclosed the decision in a filing with the Connecticut Department of Labor.
In 2006, Unilever designated Englewood Cliffs, N.J., as its central U.S. corporate office, with the company shifting hundreds of jobs there over the next two years from its former Greenwich office while expanding its Trumbull site with additions from Clinton, Edgewater, N.J., and Rolling Meadows, Ill. The company has dual headquarters in London and Rotterdam.
Former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen sued Unilever in 2009 over wastewater releases in Clinton that allegedly violated state environmental rules. As part of a settlement, Unilever underwrote the $2.5 million creation of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation at the University of Connecticut, along with $1 million more for the town of Clinton.
Unilever picked up its Connecticut operations in its 1986 acquisition of Chesebrough-Pond’s, with its Trumbull research center continuing to focus on its Pond’s brand of facial cleansers and lotions as well as Dove and Lever 2000 soap, Axe and Degree deodorant, Suave shampoo, Q-Tips swabs and Vaseline. Unilever would spin off its laundry business as an independent company called Sun Products, based in Wilton, which Henkel acquired four years ago and relocated to a new U.S. head office in Stamford.
Unilever remains the fourth largest consumer products company in the world today after Nestle, Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, with its portfolio including ice cream brands Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike and Magnum, which have sold well since the imposition of “stay-at-home” orders by governors nationally.
With U.S. households stocking up on essentials in the early weeks of the pandemic, Unilever recorded a nearly 10 percent increase in North American sales in the first half of this year, to $3.3 billion. On a conference call last week, CEO Alan Jope indicated that while panic-buying has eased, the company is still playing catch-up for some products.
“We’re struggling slightly to keep up with demand in North America,” Jope said. “We’ve addressed the hot spots. ... We’re seeing tremendous strength in hygiene and skin cleansing.”
Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman