The U.S. is showing some signs of a recovery, but its unequal distribution poses a challenge for Unilever, the company's chief executive told CNBC on Thursday.
"Although the U.S. shows some signs of slight pick-up it's not equally distributed. If it's not, then companies like ours have a hard time benefiting," Paul Polman told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box."
"The real estate market might go up or New York apartment prices might double, but that's not where our consumers are unfortunately," he added. "So we need to be sure that we get more people into the workforce, that the wealth is better spread and then we usually do better."
On Thursday, the Anglo-Dutch firm reported underlying sales growth of 5 percent for the second quarter, just shy of market expectations. Shares fell 2.2 percent in London on Thursday morning.
But Polman said the company was "very happy" with the results, particularly when "Europe is slowing down and the U.S. is flat."
He said Europe was not addressing the key issue of competitiveness.
"We haven't moved forward other than a lot of talk. To what crisis does it have to come before we change? There are some signs that the measures taken in southern Europe, especially Spain, have plateaued out a decline but we don't see that in too many other countries," he said.
"We all have to work hard, especially on the issue of youth unemployment which is of great concern to us. Europe will have a tough ride in the next 10 years and it needs an honest conversation with the citizens of Europe that is currently absent."