MMC clears ice-cream monopolies

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THE MONOPOLIES and Mergers Commission has given the all-clear to the ice-cream distribution methods used by the market leaders, Birds Eye Walls and Nestle, writes Mary Fagan.

The MMC said that the practice of supplying freezers to retailers on terms that excluded other products did not hurt competition or consumers' choice.

Its report said that Birds Eye Walls had a monopoly over the market for 'impulse' ice-cream and lollies - bought for immediate consumption, usually from smaller shops. A complex monopoly was held by Birds Eye Walls, Nestle and Mars with a total market share of wrapped impulse products of 88 per cent.

However, neither monopoly was deemed to act against the public interest.

The report was attacked by the Consumers Association, which believes that buyers of ice-cream pay more than is necessary and are deprived of choice.

The findings were also attacked by Mars, which allows retailers to stock other products when it provides a freezer. Simon Bullmore, managing director of Mars Confectionery, said: 'For the MMC to conclude that freezer exclusivity does not operate against the public interest is astonishing.'

John Sharpe, chairman of Birds Eye Walls, said the report proved that there was no need to change the system.