Coca-Cola has stopped its deliveries to French chains Intermarché and Netto. The retailer accuses the drinks producer of forcing it to buy more unhealthy products, but the latter denies that. The question beckons however, what about the other members of Intermarché's purchasing alliance Agecore (Colruyt, Edeka)?
Less cola, more healthy drinks
As their former contract expired, Coca-Cola and Intermarché appear to be unable to find common ground on which products should find their way to the stores. That was reason enough for the drinks producer to unilaterally suspend all deliveries of the brands Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Fuzetea, Honest, Tropico, Caprisun and Monster to Intermarché and Netto, president Thierry Cotillard of ITM Alimentaire says in an internal note French website LSA has been able to source.
"This brutal and unannounced end to deliveries stems from a difference of opinion about the product range: Coca-Cola wants to force us to maintain a range we do not agree to", LSA quotes. Cotillard says consumers nowadays want more healthy products in the stores: soft drink sales in France have decreased by 3.2 % last year.
"In this context, last summer we have told soft drink producers that we want to reduce shelf space for certain soft drinks by 2020, promoting products that embody the newest trends instead. Therefore, we informed Coca-Cola well in advance and conform the rules that we wanted to decrease our product range, especially of cola", Cotillard continued.
Going one step further, Cotillard also claimed Coca-Cola was abusing its dominant position by putting a stop to the deliveries of its full product range. "This approach is actually designed to limit Intermarché and Netto stores' access to new products, which are often produced by SMEs." He ends furiously: "We will not accept that a multinational undercuts our beliefs, violates our independence or limits our free choice of products."
We do nothing of the kind, Coca-Cola says in LSA: "Intermarché's claims are not accurate. We do not have ignited a dispute in our commercial relationship with Intermarché, nor did we try to enforce our product range to them. However, our contract with Intermarché ended on 21 December 2019, and - despite our attempts - we still had not reached an agreement by 1 January 2020. Therefore we temporarily suspended our deliveries to them, but we are ready to resume them once we find an agreement."
Interesting sidenote: Intermarché forms an international purchasing alliance with - amongst others - German Edeka and Belgian Colruyt. It remains to be seen how the dispute will work out with the other members...