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

Fans of Evian, Badoit and Volvic, go drink elsewhere. In almost half of Intermarchés, these brands, which belong to the Danone group, have disappeared from the shelves. When the industrial giant did not agree with the price of these waters, Intermarché deprived these bottles from their place in the supermarket.

This is called the method of dereferencing », is not so new as the threat is often marked by distributors but rarely carried out, speaking of more difficult negotiations than before with their suppliers. A Senate report produced this summer is telling an unprecedented level of tension between manufacturers and distributors ». In the background, accusations of dishonesty and greed are mixed between agrifood and distribution, each of which is suspected of increasing their margins on the pretext of an increase in raw materials. Suspicions are in fact little substantiated or even unjustified.

Accusations of profiting from the crisis abound

In detail, the boss of Intermarché attacked unreasonable double-digit price increases” in the range of +12% which Danone claims it attributes to the new ” Danone headline management” and of his “shareholders demanding higher profits translated into requests for price increases (…) This company, like many other large companies, is taking advantage of the current crisis to restore its margins and try to pass a number of small inappropriate increases”, concluded the BFM Business microphone leader.

Echoing this, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, president of the E.Leclerc group, made a similar statement about its suppliers for more than a year, meaning when inflation returned. On Tuesday on CNews, he admitted that Inflation is everywhere in the world but not everywhere just », teaching the capitalist (industrialist) logic of expectation » price increase, and appreciation of the role of its central purchasing delay, negotiation and counter-negotiation » the inflation that its suppliers will try to impose on it.

However, these accusations are far from founded, according to the Senate report published in July, which rejected the allegations of the distribution chiefs. LMost of the increases demanded are clearly linked to increased production costs. In other words, there does not seem to be a large phenomenon of “suspicious increases”, as argued in the public debate. No actor heard, even the distributors who expressed their doubts, finally managed to prove the opposite “concluded the document with a thinly veiled allusion to Leclerc.

Manufacturers, the main victims of delisting

The report insists on the fact that, when delisting occurs, manufacturers and distributors are far from being on the same footing. Given the fact that a non-reference product deprives the manufacturer of millions of customers, and therefore millions of euros (even tens of millions of euros) in turnover, the balance of power is more in favor of mass distribution”, line the senators before remembering that, if Leclerc comes to exclude a product from its stalls, the product concerned “lost access to a fifth of French consumers ».

The parliamentarians not only scratch the supermarkets, responsible, according to the senatorial investigation, for certain price increases on the shelves without the cost of the products mounted. They also criticize manufacturers, some of whom sometimes blackmail distributors when stocks run out.

The buying centers are in a position of strength

The food industry, multinationals or small processors, is 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 in their position at the end of the chain that 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 together with some multinationals such as Mars or Nestlé, which represent a small part of the food of the French. On the distribution side, on the other hand, there are only 7 purchasing groups », specified in The gallery in July Jean-Paul Simier, Crédit Agricole economist in charge of agricultural commodities.

In the agri-food value chain, no actor is in the position of price maker. Everyone suffered from the increase in the price of packaging, raw materials, transportation. Above all, it is a transparent sector, with well-known institutional players and, if part of the margins disappear, it will be visible. Unlike other times there was a strong black market around food, especially in France after World War II », press the academic Michel-Pierre Chelini who sees the recent rhetoric of distributors that hardens the usual showdown between manufacturers and brands. In fact, a discount of half a penny can lead to thousands or even millions of euros in profit due to the large sales volume of large retailers.

The risk of sudden and more organized shortages

Michel-Pierre Chelini admitted on the other hand that the voluntary withdrawal of a product from the shelves is not not always ». He sees it as an act of symbolic meaning vis-à-vis the customers. We stoke consumer fears, especially of shortcomings, under the guise of consumer awareness »understood the economist who warned about the dimension psycho-emotional inflation » and the importance for economic leaders to maintain a moderate discourse. At the risk of provoking events that they claim to avoid.

The Senate is particularly concerned in its report about the risk of shortages of certain products, due to the fact of the harmful relationship between the players in the food chain. Practices questionable, on the part of distributors and manufacturers, sharp sharpening of tensions » and threatening to lead to a supply disruption soon ». If necessary, the loss of products on the shelves will be tolerated and more organized by distributors.