Supervalu Sues Candy Makers

PHILADELPHIA Supervalu filed a lawsuit here last week accusing several major chocolate suppliers of conspiring to fix prices. In an effort to combat the prospect of diminishing profits, defendants and their co-conspirators entered into a conspiracy not to compete in the sale of chocolate products, the suit alleges, then Supervalu, which is based in Minneapolis, for the products, beginning in 2002

PHILADELPHIA — Supervalu filed a lawsuit here last week accusing several major chocolate suppliers of conspiring to fix prices.

“In an effort to combat the prospect of diminishing profits, defendants and their co-conspirators entered into a conspiracy not to compete in the sale of chocolate products,” the suit alleges, then “overcharged” Supervalu, which is based in Minneapolis, for the products, beginning in 2002 and continuing through “at least 2008.”

The suit lists Nestlé USA, The Hershey Co., Hershey Canada, Mars Snackfood U.S., Cadbury Holdings, Cadbury PLC and Cadbury Adams Canada as defendants. Together these companies have a 76% share of the U.S. chocolate market, Supervalu said.

Listed as co-conspirators are ITWAL Ltd., a network of distributors based in Canada; Mars Canada (previously known as Effem Inc.); Nestlé S.A.; and Nestlé Canada.

The suit alleges these companies provided false or misleading explanations for changes in the price of chocolate candy products “to create the illusion that these changes were the result of unilateral conduct when, in fact, they were the result of collusion.”

In addition, the suit alleges these companies conducted “covert, secret conspiracy communications or meetings in the U.S., Canada and/or Europe.”

A Nestlé spokeswoman said the company does not comment on litigation. Spokespeople at Hershey, Mars and Cadbury could not be reached for comment.

Approximately two years ago, similar lawsuits were filed against major chocolate companies by Giant Eagle, Kroger Co., Walgreen and Hy-Vee.

It was not immediately clear if those suits had been resolved.

Those suits came as an investigation — reportedly still ongoing — by the Canadian Competition Bureau that has allegedly uncovered communications between executives at the chocolate makers about plans to raise prices.