US’s Supervalu accuses chocolate giants of price fixing

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 6th April 2010

US supermarket group Supervalu Inc has filed a lawsuit accusing Hershey, Mars Inc, Nestle and Cadbury of colluding to fix the price of chocolate bars between 2002 and 2008.

The antitrust suit, which was filed in a Pennsylvania court, accused the chocolate “cartel” of over-charging the retailer by collectively pushing price increases through despite “waning” demand for chocolate products.

The defendants “entered into a conspiracy not to compete in the sale of chocolate candy products” in order to combat a slowing market for chocolate, the suit alleged.

Supervalu claimed that, beginning in 2002, the chocolate makers increased prices citing rising raw materials costs.

However, Supervalu argued that the price of cocoa remained stable between 2003 and 2007, while the price of sugar also remained stable in the period apart from a “brief spike” in 2005 and the price of milk fluctuated up and down during the period.

The company is asking for triple the amount of the damages it sustained and a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from future antitrust violations.

When contacted by just-food the company declined to comment on ongoing legal matters. The defendants were not available for comment at time of press.

Collectively, the four defendants control 76% percent of the US chocolate market.

ust-food is the world’s leading portal for the global pre-packaged food and retail industries. Its daily mix of breaking news, views, analysis and research serves over 100,000 food executives each month.