While the consumer may be agonising at the shelf edge, fmcg giant Unilever is slashing the number of brands it manufactures by three quarters. The company intends to reduce its range from 1,600 brands to 400 by 2004 and concentrate on its most successful products. Jess Blandford, home care manager for subsidiary Lever Faberge, denies the rationale for the move is one of restricting consumer choice: "The key driver is the need to focus our resources on how best to meet our customers' needs." Blandford says the company is improving its big brands offer by introducing more variants. "We've consolidated the brands, and as a result there's more choice. "We're offering better consumer choice within the Persil brand, for example." A company spokesman adds: "We're distilling our range to reinvest time and money in improving those brands for the customer. It's not a matter of limiting choice, we're trying to give the consumer what they want." {{COVER FEATURE }}