Four fifths (79.8 per cent) of attendees at the recent Checkout Conference, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin, felt that the Christmas fruit and veg promotion, which saw fresh produce on sale at selected retailers for as little as five cent, was a “step too far”.

According to organisers, attendees at the conference, which comprised of leading executives in the retail grocery and fast-moving consumer goods sectors, were asked the question: “The Christmas ‘ fruit and veg wars’ in some of Ireland’s leading supermarkets attracted plenty of attention, not all of it positive for the industry. Do you think the promotion was a ‘step too far’?”

Quarter of attendees also believed the fruit and veg promotion will lead to Government action. This represented 23.7 per cent of respondents an indication that significant numbers believe the promotion could lead to the Government seeking to fast track the anticipated Consumer and Competition Bill.

Speaking on the issue recently, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, said work is under way in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on including an enabling provision in legislation in the Consumer Protection and Competition Bill, in relation to regulating certain practices in the grocery goods sector.

He said: “My colleague, Minister Bruton hopes to publish this bill shortly. The regulation of certain practices will not include pricing levels. At EU level a number of stakeholders participating in the High Level Forum on the better functioning of the food supply chain have agreed on a list of general and specific principles of good practice in commercial relations and they are now implementing this on a voluntary basis. The European Commission has indicated that it will review this in due course.”

The survey also found a further 56.1 per cent answered ‘Yes the promotion was a step to far, but there won’t be a lasting effect’.9.6 per cent answered ‘No, it was only meeting demand for low prices’. And finally, 10.5 per cent answered ‘No, and what was all the fuss about?’

The question formed part of a series of ‘ask the audience’ questions, which took place over the course of the day. Another interesting finding was when, attendees were asked as to which retailer they felt most ‘put their money where their mouth is’ when it comes to promoting Irish products. 57 per cent answered SuperValu, compared to 13.3 per cent that answered Tesco, 10.2 per cent that answered Aldi, 7.6 per cent that answered Dunnes Stores, 5.5 per cent that answered Superquinn and 2.3 per cent that answered Lidl.

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