The reorganisation is part of the One Unilever programme, which is intended to enable the multinational to use its scale to improve its competitiveness.
The announcement of the severe cutbacks followed a science and technology review led by Vindi Banga, President of Unilever Foods.
"The review showed that we have great people and strong capabilities. However, it also showed that by organising ourselves so that we could leverage our scale and play to our strengths we could improve our market competitiveness,” said Banga. “By getting the benefits of focus and synergies I am convinced that today's announcement will make a significant difference to our innovation delivery."
Under the new structure the six centres of excellence will be charged with establishing a world-class technical capability that can be applied across global, regional and local innovation. In addition, local adaptation and implementation of foods innovations will be carried out by consolidated country and factory teams.
The changes will start in 2007 and be completed by the end of 2008.
The current European Foods R&D organisation employs 1,160 people in over 60 locations across Europe. As result of this reorganisation, Unilever will move to 29 Foods R&D locations in Europe. The company estimates that the restructuring will result in a loss of approximately 240 jobs, while 260 jobs will be relocated.