Unilever’s global ice cream business includes brands such as Ben and Jerry's, Walls, and Heart. It is a highly competitive market and sales are often determined by which brand is most visible at the point of purchase. The ice cream cabinets - where the consumer goes to choose their purchase - is an opportunity to advertise and has become a significant factor in the success of Unilever’s ice cream business. It is a high-value and strategically important capital expenditure category (CapEx) containing highly complex, technical products: ice cream chiller cabinets. With Geneus, the consumer goods giant was able to gain full visibility over spend for the first time across all markets.

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The Challenge

Ice cream cabinets are highly complex, technical products. They’re also highly configurable for different markets, which posed a problem for Unilever. With hard-to-manage products and an over-reliance on the supply chain, the global enterprise faced a considerable challenge.

Unilever’s main buying process was taking place between different markets and suppliers. As a result, they suffered from a lack of visibility over global spend.

However, there was no way of confirming this. Why?

  • Manual PO processes. Using a manual text input to SAP, markets generated POs as single-line entries with no product detail and often, incorrect cost codes.
  • Elongated buying processes. Using spreadsheets, markets sent configurations to a central team in Italy for validation, which would then be sent on to the supplier to validate. This resulted in numerous iterations of configurations and pricing.

As a consequence, Unilever lacked an audit trail because all communications took place on the phone or over email. They were never captured centrally.

Incomplete, inaccurate and non-auditable data led to weak reporting.

The Solution: Working with Geneus


Uni-Buyer has helped our day-to-day operations by providing us with real-time information of our transactional purchasing processes, in the past we had to invest significant amounts of time and effort in trying to compile similar information and were not always certain if the result was accurate enough.

Our objective was to simplify Unilever’s process and provide them with a single, consistent way for markets to purchase ice cream cabinets. To help Unilever capture accurate, reportable data, we were tasked with automating as much as the buying process as possible.

Here’s how:

  • Cataloguing cabinets. Using Geneus, we were able to digitise the specification of base units and capture the options available to markets for specific configurations, including local branding.
  • Detailed pricing. Cataloguing enabled suppliers to provide pricing down to constituent-part level, which created a bill of materials once the market had configured the cabinet to their requirements.
  • Tailored content. Geneus was able to deliver content relevant to the user based on their geographical remit with a simple user journey.
  • Integration. Geneus integrated with Unilever’s P2P system, Ariba, which meant it could transfer full requisition data to start the automated PO process in P2P. This was the first time Unilever had full visibility of product purchase.
  • Tracking interaction. Between markets and suppliers, Unilever could identify when and where markets were buying, what they were buying, and for how much. Another first.
  • Consistency. Using a single, consistent approach for markets to communicate enabled suppliers to respond quickly and easily.

The Results


The level of personalised support received as well as the opportunity to discuss and agree improvements to the system have made the whole implementation experience quite satisfying.

Over 18 months, Unilever achieved:

  • Contract compliance measured at over 95%. For the first time, Unilever was able to confidently publish the annual spend for ICC.
  • Each market’s buying process reduced from 12 to 4 weeks, on average.
  • Reporting against key metrics enabled. Unilever can report on spend for the category, market and by supplier; specifications by market; and total environmental impact for the spend.
  • Innovation. Geneus has enabled the Unilever team to spend more time working with suppliers to enhance and improve the cabinet offering, including the development of more environmentally-friendly products.

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