Italy fines Unilever over €60 million over ice cream market abuse

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In the conclusion of an investigation from back in 2013, Italy’s antitrust agency AGCM has fined Unilever over €60mn for ice cream market abuse.

Italy’s antitrust agency AGCM has imposed a fine of over €60mn on the Italian arm of the world’s biggest ice cream maker, Unilever, for ‘abuse of its dominant position in Italy’s ice cream market’.

Amongst the statements made by the agency included that of Unilever having abused its position in single-wrapped, ‘impulse’ ice creams for immediate consumption, markets under the company’s Algida brand.

The original investigation dates back to 2013 when La Bomba, a small producer of organic fruit lollies, came forth with allegations that Unilever was forcing local businesses to not sell its products by striking deals with businesses in the seaside town of Rimini (also La Bomba’s home base) to exclusively sell Unilever’s ice creams.

The investigation revealed that in accordance with these allegations, Unilever’s clients had indeed been ‘obliged’ to sell its brand of ice cream, causing ‘substantial prejudice to the final decision of consumers’.

AGCM also stated that the ice cream market in 2015 was worth €5.15bn, and the individually-wrapped market was worth €780mn.

Unilever markets its products in Italy under the Magnum, Carte d‘Or and Cornetto ice cream brands, and also produces other food, home and personal care goods, making its yearly profits around €1.4bn a year in the local market.

In response, the company has ‘firmly rejected’ the outcome of the investigation, and has announced its decision to lodge an appeal. This appeal can be made at a regional court.

“The market for ice cream (to be consumed) outside the home is a highly competitive one in which artisan and industrial, bulk and packaged products compete for the consumer’s attention in a fragmented landscape that is like no other in Europe,” Unilever added.

Source: Asia Food Journal