French supermarkets Intermarché and Netto may no longer sell the drink after distributors allegedly decided to stop deliveries pending unresolved negotiations over product listings for 2020. The dispute could also affect the brands Fanta, Sprite, and Tropico.
In a letter published in specialist publication LSA, Thierry Cotillard, president of Intermarché and Netto, said: “This brutal and sudden stoppage in deliveries is due to a dispute over the ranges; Coca-Cola wants to force us to carry a 2020 range, which we do not want. The soft drinks market is seeing a significant drop in volume: -3.2% over the past 12 months.
“Our clients want healthier products to maintain their long-term health. They are also falling out of favour with products that have a negative effect on the environment, leaving single-use plastic behind, and favouring less-processed products, from local sources.”
He added: “We let the industry know in summer that from 2020, we are intending to take real steps in to reduce the prominence of certain sodas, in favour of products that embody these new healthier, lower-sugar trends.”
Mr Cotillard said that in response, Coca-Cola had decided to halt all deliveries completely.
He said: “Coca-Cola is abusing its dominant position, with a view to forcing us to carry all of its products. In reality, this move aims to restrict Intermarché and Netto’s access to new product lines, often made by small businesses, that we want to carry from January, instead of sodas.”
He added: “We cannot accept such methods. We will not allow a multinational to interfere with our convictions [or] flout our independent values. We are ready to fight for our rights (in court) and denounce the actions of this manufacturer.”
But in its own letter to LSA, Coca-Cola said: “We are aware of recent statements from Intermarché. These statements are inaccurate. We are not the source of any dispute in our commercial relationship with Intermarché, nor any attempt to impose our ranges.
“Our contract with Intermarché ended on December 21, 2019. Despite our offers, we had not come to an agreement by January 1, 2020, in the context of Intermarché having announced a massive delisting of our products. While waiting to hear about Intermarché’s position on orders delivered from January 1, 2020, we have put deliveries on hold.
“We are of course ready to deliver as soon as we have found an agreement on conditions of sale after January 1. We continue to prioritise talks with Intermarché.”
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