Michael Treschow has been chairman of Unilever since 2007 Reuters

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever is reported to have begun a search for a new chairman to replace current incumbent Michael Treschow.

Sky News said the company had enlisted the services of head hunting agency Russell Reynolds Associates to name a new chairman by the end of the year, with a view to taking over at next year's annual meeting.

The company, whose products include a vast array of food, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care items, has been facing weakening demand in emerging markets such as China.

It is unclear whether the next chairman will be picked from the firm's pool of non-executive directors, Sky News said.

"Non-executive directors normally serve for a maximum of nine years. Succession planning is in place and ongoing," a Unilever spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

"The nominating and corporate governance committee and the board spend considerable time looking at the NED [non-executive directors] and chairman succession."

The current chairman, Swedish-born Treschow, has been at the helm of the consumer goods giant since 2007.

In April, the company said underlying sales - which strip out the impact of asset sales, acquisitions and currency movements - rose 2.8% in the first quarter.

One of the oldest multinational companies in the world, Unilever is a dual-listed company consisting of Unilever N V, based in Rotterdam, and Unilever plc, based in London. The two companies operate as a single business with a common board of directors.

The firm owns over 400 brands and its products are sold in around 190 countries.