when supermarkets boycott the products of their suppliers to put them under pressure

Au motif que le fabricant des eaux Evian, Badoit et Volvic réclame des tarifs trop hauts pour ses produits, 4 Intermarchés sur 10 ne proposent plus ces marques de Danone en rayons.

Fans of Evian, Badoit and Volvic, go drink elsewhere. In nearly half of Intermarchés, these brands, which belong to the Danone group, have disappeared from the shelves. In disagreement with the industrial giant on the price of these waters, Intermarché deprived these bottles of their place in the supermarket.

This so-called method of dereferencing », not so new as the threat is often brandished by distributors but rarely carried out, tells of the tougher negotiations than ever with their suppliers. A report of the Senate carried out this summer speaks an unprecedented level of tension between manufacturers and distributors ». In the background, accusations of dishonesty and greed fuse between agrifood and distribution, which each suspect of inflating their margins on the pretext that there is an inflation of raw materials. Suspicions in fact little substantiated or even unjustified.

Accusations of profiting from the crisis abound

In detail, the boss of Intermarché attacked unjustified double-digit price increases” of the order of +12% claimed by Danone which it attributes to the new ” management at the head of Danone” and to its “shareholders who are demanding higher profitability which translates into requests for price increases (…) This company, like a number of other large companies, is taking advantage of the current crisis to restore its margins and try to make pass a number of slightly undue increases”, concluded the leader at the microphone of BFM Business.

Echoing this, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, president of the E.Leclerc group, has been making a similar statement about its suppliers for more than a year, that is to say when inflation rebounded. On Tuesday on CNews, he claimed that inflation is everywhere in the world but is not everywhere justified », pointing the capitalist (industrialist) logic of anticipation » price increases, and praising the role of its central purchasing delay, negotiate and counter-negotiate » the inflation that its suppliers would try to inflict on it.

However, these accusations are far from being founded, according to the Senate report published in July, which refutes the allegations of the bosses of the distribution. Lost of the increases requested were clearly linked to the increase in production costs. In other words, there does not seem to be a massive phenomenon of “suspicious increases”, as argued in the public debate. No actor heard, not even the distributors who expressed their doubts, were finally able to prove the contrary “concluded the document in a thinly veiled allusion to Leclerc.

Manufacturers, the main victim of delisting

The report insists on the fact that, in the event of delisting, manufacturers and distributors are far from being on an equal footing. Given the fact that a non-referenced product deprives the manufacturer of millions of customers, and therefore of millions of euros (even tens of millions of euros) in turnover, the balance of power is greatly favorable to mass distribution”, underline the senators before recalling that, if Leclerc comes to exclude a product from its stalls, the product concerned “loses access to a fifth of French consumers ».

The parliamentarians are not only scratching the supermarkets, responsible, according to the senatorial investigation, for certain price increases on the shelves without the costs of the products being mounted. They also denounce manufacturers, some of whom sometimes blackmail distributors when they run out of stock.

Purchasing centers in a position of strength

The food industry, multinationals or small processors, is however not in a position to dictate its pricing conditions to supermarkets. Distributors are in a strong position, thanks to the concentration of the sector [le fait qu’un petit nombre de grandes entreprises dominent le marché, comme Carrefour, Leclerc, Lidl ou encore Casino, Ndlr]but above all to their position at the end of the chain which allows them to control the access of products to the consumer »observes the economist Michel-Pierre Chelini.

In France, there are 400,000 farmers, 17,000 processors, 95% of which are agri-food SMEs alongside a few multinationals such as Mars or Nestlé, which represent a tiny part of the diet of the French. On the distribution side, on the other hand, there are only 7 purchasing groups », specified to The gallery in July Jean-Paul Simier, Crédit Agricole economist in charge of agricultural commodities.

On the agri-food value chain, no actor is in a position of price maker. Everyone suffers price increases on packaging, raw materials, transport. Above all, it is a transparent sector, with known institutional players and, if part of the margins evaporated, it would be seen. Unlike other times when there was a strong black market around food, especially in France after the Second World War », press the academic Michel-Pierre Chelini who sees in the recent rhetoric of distributors a hardening of the usual showdown between manufacturers and brands. Indeed, a discount of half a penny can lead to thousands or even millions of euros in profits given the gargantuan sales volumes of large retailers.

The risk of a sudden and more organized shortage

Michel-Pierre Chelini admits on the other hand that the voluntary withdrawal of a product from the shelves is not not frequent ». He sees it as an act of symbolic significance vis-à-vis customers. We agitate the fear of consumers, in particular of shortages, under the guise of informing consumers »perceives the economist who warns about the dimension psycho-emotional inflation » and the importance for economic leaders to maintain a moderate discourse. At the risk of provoking the phenomena they claim to avoid.

The Senate was specifically concerned in its report about the risk of a shortage of certain products, due to the very fact of the disastrous relations between the players in the food chain. Practices questionable, on the part of distributors and manufacturers, sharply sharpen the tensions » and threaten to lead to supply disruptions soon ». If necessary, the absence of products on the shelves would be suffered and more organized by the distributors.