The reorganisation is part of the One Unilever programme designed to increase leverage of its scale, improve its marketplace competitiveness and create a more competitive cost-structure.
It also follows an extensive science and technology review led by Vindi Banga, president of Unilever's Foods Category.
Banga said that although the review showed that the group had strong capabilities, it also demonstrated that the company could leverage its strengths and improve its market competitiveness through better organisation.
"By getting the benefits of focus and synergies, I am convinced that today's announcement will make a significant difference to our innovation delivery," he said.
The new structure will see new product development concentrated in six centres of excellence across Europe. Each of these centres will establish a technical capabilities that can be applied across categories for global, regional and local innovations.
In addition, local adaptation and implementation of foods innovations will be ensured through consolidated country and factory teams.
"Unilever will implement these changes sensitively and professionally, with attention to all affected people," said Banga.
"Unilever is committed to working closely with works councils and employees to minimise redundancies and to provide redundancy packages where needed, in line with local legislation and circumstances."
Implementation of the changes in Unilever's European Foods R&D organisation will commence in 2007 and be completed by the end of 2008.
Unilever is very aware of the need to ensure that it has the flexibility to adapt to change. At the recent CIAA Congress in Brussels for example, CEO Patrick Cescau presented his 'manifesto for the food industry'. This included the need to reformulate in order to deliver nutritious products.
The crux of Cescau's speech was that the food industry must do more to rebuild public confidence. He argued that the industry must drive down the levels of sugar, salt, trans-fats and saturated fats in its products, and also play a more active role in nutrition education.
Unilever's current European Foods R&D organisation employs 1,160 people in over 60 locations across Europe. As result of this reorganisation, the company will move to 29 Foods R&D locations in Europe.
Unilever estimates that the reorganisation of Foods R&D Europe will result in a loss of approximately 240 jobs due to the change to a simpler, more focussed organisation. The group said that it expects to relocate an additional 260 jobs to the consolidated Foods R&D centres across Europe.
Unilever has around 206,000 employees in approaching 100 countries and generated annual sales of €40billion in 2005.