Unilever could be set for some major changes as incoming chief executive Paul Polman prepares to take the helm of the consumer products giant.

Polman, who was named as the successor to outgoing Unilever boss Patrick Cescau last month, will reportedly be handed a mandate by investors to review the company’s operations and drive up performance.

One investor told the Financial Times he hoped Polman, whose move from rival consumer group Nestle was announced in September, would “raise the metabolic rate” of Unilever.

A former Unilever executive added: “It’s a real tribute to the strength of the Unilever brand that it has taken such a radical view of itself and knows it’s got to change. It’s not a soft option.”

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Unilever was previously the subject of a tentative approach from private equity giant Apax Partners. A €70bn (£54.8bn) bid was considered, which would have represented one of the largest take-privates in European history and would almost certainly have led to the break-up of the group.