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Musgrave row with Unilever hits supplies of ice-cream

By John Mulligan

Published 25/10/2016

SuperValu boss Martin Kelleher
SuperValu boss Martin Kelleher

Relations between Irish retail group Musgrave and global grocery giant Unilever remain frosty, with the international group still not supplying ice-cream favourites such as HB and Ben & Jerry's to the Cork company.

Musgrave - which owns 200 Centra, Mace and SuperValu shops in Northern Ireland - has been locked in a trade dispute with Unilever after the multinational tried to raise prices on a raft of products it supplies.

Unilever, whose brands include Lyons Tea, Dove, Hellmann's and Lynx, was also embroiled in a dispute with Tesco in the UK over price rises. That threatened to see a large number of popular brands vanish from shelves at Tesco. But the pair later reached an agreement.

Unilever stopped supplying goods to Musgrave two weeks ago over the price row.

Musgrave said that Unilever was trying to raise prices on some of the products it supplied by up to 19%. Unilever makes some of the most popular goods sold in this country, including Knorr soups, Flora margarine, Domestos, and Pot Noodles.

It supplies 800 products to Musgrave. Unilever hadn't sought a price increase for all those products, but did stop supplying all of them. The Anglo-Dutch company has offered Irish retailers a currency exchange mechanism to compensate them for the price rises it's seeking to introduce.

Unilever has blamed a slump in the value of sterling for having to implement price increases.

And while Unilever has now started supplying almost all its products to Musgrave again, it's still not shipping ice-cream brands to the Irish group, which also controls the Centra chain.

That means that favourites such as Magnum, Cornetto and Carte D'Or are still missing from the shelves of SuperValu and Centra outlets all over Ireland.

Musgrave said its negotiations with Unilever are continuing, and that the supply of a number of products now subject to any price increase has resumed.

SuperValu, whose managing director is Martin Kelleher, is the Republic's biggest grocery retailer, with a 22.4% share of the market.

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