Outlook: Cold comfort for Mars
Wednesday 28 January 1998
The dispute centres around whether corner shops should be allowed to use freezers supplied by Unilever to stock rival brands of ice-cream. To the rest of the world, this might seem an arcane and trifling issue for two such behemoths of the food industry to come to blows over. But when you realise that European ice-cream sales are running at pounds 9bn a year, and that Unilever has a big fat 40 per cent of the market, it is easier to understand why it is applying Magnum force to the argument.
Typically, the Swiss in the shape of Nestle have declared themselves neutral, even though they also ban everyone else's ice lollies from their cabinets, hold a 25 per cent market share and thus have as much vested interest in the outcome as anyone. Unilever insists it has built its market share through hard graft and if Mars really believes the future of the world relies with frozen Bounty bars, then it can fork out for its own freezer cabinets.
Mars retorts that most corner shops have room for only one freezer and since Unilever is the market leader with the biggest range, it is a no- brainer for most shopkeepers. It has chosen Ireland as the battleground because Unilever's market share there is 80 per cent and because the Irish proportionately buy more ice-cream from small shops than anyone else.
Now Karel Van Miert, the European Competition Commissioner, appears to have swallowed the Mars argument and is about to rule against Unilever. That must bode ill for its market dominance not just in Ireland, but throughout Europe. The last time Unilever was rapped over the knuckles for this it agreed to sell off a fifth of its freezers in Ireland only to discover that it could barely give them away. This time round it will appeal, which should eat up another three years, and hope to get away with surrendering more of its tied freezer estate.
A simpler solution might be for each manufacturer to rent space in the other's freezers. That would get Mr Van Miert off the industry's back, save on lawyers' bills and allow consumers a genuine choice of whether they want a Solero or an Opel Fruit ice-cream bar down the inside of the car seat.
Cameron's freebie to apartheid South Africa
Nelson Mandela: 11 inspirational quotes to live your life by
Nelson Mandela: From 'terrorist' to tea with the Queen
UK weather: People urged to remain vigilant as high tides and strong winds continue through the night
Nelson Mandela death: his life in pictures
- 1 Cameron's freebie to apartheid South Africa
- 2 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 3 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 4 Australian ultra-nationalist politician Stephanie Banister in car crash immigration TV interview
- 5 People will try to reduce Mandela to a lilting reggae tune about ‘love’. They will fail
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£150 - £250 per day: Cornwallis Elt : iPhone Rollout- Blackberry Enginee...
£55000 - £70000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: A well-known and renowned in...
£450 - £500 per hour: Cornwallis Elt : Business Analyst Finance System Hy...
£400 - £550 per day: Cornwallis Elt : BUSINESS ANALYST- OPERATIONS- PRIVATE B...