In the Europe division, sales decreased by 5.7%, mainly due to lower volumes and to a lesser extent prices, but improved in the second half. Growth in adult care continued, driven by continued progress and market share gains in the retail and pharmacy markets, which more than offset weakness in the institutional channel. In Baby Care and Feminine Care, sales were down, mainly due to lost tenders in previous years and supply chain disruptions in the second half. The gain-loss balance on tenders, which had been consistently negative for the past three years, narrowed and remained stable in the second half of the year, turning positive in the last quarter and entering 2022.
In the AMEAA division, sales increased by 5.6% like-for-like, due to the increase in volumes, mix and prices and in the main geographies. In North America, sales growth was driven by volume, gaining market share in private labels thanks to contract wins. The perimeter impact of the acquisition of feminine hygiene assets in mid-2020 compensated for the lower exchange rate impact of the US dollar. In Central America, growth was more moderate and related to adult care and the launch of baby briefs. In South America, sales were driven by price and volume growth in adult and baby care, the latter with renewed brands. In the Middle East, prices also rose well, but volume growth in adults was offset by lower sales in baby care.
Fourth quarter sales increased by 0.7% like-for-like due to an overall price increase of 2.5%, coming from the AMEAA division, which more than offset a contraction in volumes and mix of 1.8%, mainly in the Europe division. Taking into account the positive effect of currency fluctuations, ie the appreciation of the Mexican peso, the Brazilian real and the US dollar, total sales increased by 1.5%.
In the Europe division, sales decreased by 3.2% like-for-like. Volumes were down year-on-year in Baby Care and to a lesser extent in Feminine Care as supply chain disruptions continued to affect delivery times. The underlying volume trend is strong, however, as the net gain/loss balance of major contracts turns positive. In adult care, volumes increased well. Pricing was still lower year-on-year as a result of pricing investments made earlier, but less towards the end of the year as pricing initiatives began to have an effect, although slow due to contract structure.
In the AMEAA division, prices increased. Ontex has raised prices for its own brands, which account for the majority of its sales in emerging markets. The overall volume impact in these regions was neutral. In North America, which is primarily a partner brand business, effective price increases have been limited so far. Volumes in this region were up sharply, primarily in baby care, despite input supply chain complications.