SuperValu "anxious" to resolve Unilever price dispute

While Tesco confirmed last night that a deal had been struck, Musgrave's Mexican standoff continues...

SuperValu "anxious" to resolve Unilever price dispute

File photo

The price dispute between SuperValu and Unilever – the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant that makes everything from Knorr soup to Lyons Tea – rumbles on today, despite Tesco reaching agreement with the manufacturer last night.

There are fears the situation, which affects not only Ireland's largest supermarket chain but also the Musgrave-owned likes of Centra, could lead to a scarcity of Unilever products on Irish shelves in the run-up to the mid-term break.

Speaking to Newstalk Business Editor Vincent Wall this morning, SuperValu MD Martin Kelleher said the company was "anxious to resolve" the dispute as Unilever seeks a double-digit price hike to deal with a weakened sterling, but argued that his primary concern was giving the "best value" to customers.

He said:

"Our position is that we think that with sterling [falling in value], that prices should come down for products that are imported into Ireland." 

"We're not part of a group on the scale of Tesco," he admitted, suggesting that they would not have the same negotiating power in the dispute. "Obviously Tesco Ireland being a UK subsidiary means they're resolution happens immediately."

Despite this, Kelleher moved to reassure shoppers that there is "no immediate issue" when it comes to the supply of products as Unilever freeze delivery until an agreement is reached.

"There's about 800 lines in total involved. But we have stock, and there's plenty of choice in our stores. There's good alternatives and we're happy that we'll keep our shelves filled and keep looking after consumers the way that we do in SuperValu. So there's no immediate issue there..."

He would not confirm or deny that a compromise would lead to a price hike of some sort.

There have been reports that Dunne Stores is also involved in the dispute, though that has not been confirmed.