21 July 2000

Following a battle lasting several years, Birds Eye Wall's, the UK’s largest ice cream manufacturer with two-thirds of the market, has finally bent its knee to the will of the government and competition authorities.

At issue is the supply of ice cream products directly to small shopkeepers which, argues the government, gives the Wall’s brand a stranglehold on the market. Competition regulators were also concerned at Wall’s tactic of giving small retailers free freezers for ice cream provided they did not stock rival products.

Now the Unilever-owned giant has conceded defeat. According to trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers: “This summer, thanks to undertakings obtained from Birds Eye Wall's, consumers should see greater choice and keener prices in the shops." He added that Wall’s has "undertaken not to sell their impulse ice-cream direct to retailers and to distribute through independent wholesalers on non-exclusive and non-discriminatory terms."

Birds Eye Wall’s chair Ian Ferguson put a brave face on the outcome: "We will continue with our high-level advertising campaign and also continue to work with all parts of the industry to achieve further development of this market."

The company has warned that such restrictions could lead to job cuts.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)