Who is Hein Schumacher, the new CEO of Dutch Unilever?

Who is Hein Schumacher, the new CEO of Dutch Unilever?

Former Anglo-Dutch Unilever, along with Hein Schumacher, is hiring another Dutchman after Englishman Alan Jope. As of late 2020, Unilever no longer has a headquarters in the Netherlands and is a wholly British company with headquarters in London.

For Schumacher, 51, who is currently CEO of FrieslandCampina, it means a return to the company where he started his career. He was an intern at the Unilever Dove soap factory in Mannheim in the late 1990s. “In very frequent drizzle, these soap fumes would fall. I smelled like Dove all day,” he said in an interview with NRC.


After spending several years at Unilever and then Ahold, he worked for more than a decade for Heinz, the American food giant known for its ketchup. He has worked for this company in the USA, UK and China, among other places. Heinz left the company shortly after it was acquired by investors 3G and Warren Buffett. His strong focus on profit didn’t quite suit him.

“I found it fascinating to work in such an environment, but at one point I had my doubts. The extra profits went to Buffett and 3G. Heinz didn’t benefit much from it,” he said.

cows and nitrogen

After Heinz, he joined FrieslandCampina in 2014 as a senior finance man. He became CEO in 2018. In FrieslandCampina he got involved in the discussion about nitrogen emissions from farmers. Because FrieslandCampina is a cooperative owned by more than 15,000 dairy farmers in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

He said that having far fewer cows in the Netherlands is not a good solution. ‘Why would you do that? So what? How will you provide healthy food at an affordable price to people in need?” he had told Volkskrant a year ago. It has seen more in innovation to reduce emissions.

Vegan Chocolate Milk

With 15,000 farmers who have to sell their milk to FrieslandCampina, FrieslandCampina is a company built entirely on milk, yogurt, cheese and baby powder. Still, Schumacher was open to the growing market of dairy substitutes with a vegan Chocomel, for example.

“People don’t want to miss any opportunity. We must respond to the continued existence of the company. If the Chocomel brand loses its relevance because there is no vegan option, you’re missing out on a lot more in the long run. “Our brands need to stay relevant,” he told Food & Agribusiness magazine in 2021.

And indeed, a few months ago, the company launched vegan Chocomel, based on cashews, peas, and of course, cocoa. Schumacher did not rule out that some dairy farmers in FrieslandCampina would eventually have to switch to plant-based production.


Schumacher also has ties to Dutch politics. For example, he is one of the authors of the CDA electoral program for the parliamentary elections in March 2021. And as a member of the Dutch Coalition for Sustainable Growth, he sits in the cabinet twice a year along with the leaders of other major Dutch companies.

So now he’s the best man at Unilever, a multinational company with nearly 150,000 employees and 400 brands sold in 190 countries. And that’s after an extensive search process around the world, according to Unilever itself.

To the dismay of the cabinet, Unilever is officially no longer a Dutch company, but still has all kinds of activities here, like a large research center in Wageningen. And with Schumacher as the best man, it’s getting a little more Dutch again.

Source: NOS