Supermarket boss: 'So this is CEO asked to stop'
Leaked emails show pressure was put on Food & Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich to tone down her criticism of supermarkets as they came under regulatory scrutiny, a consultant says.
An email from Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Chris Quin to then Food & Grocery Council board member and Dairyworks chief executive Tim Carter has been posted online, in which Quin states “So this is ‘CEO has been asked to stop’”.
The comment appears to be in response to a forwarded message from Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird commenting unfavourably on an article Rich published in November on “competition problems” in the sector.
Hexis Quadrant partner Nick Hogendijk said the emails, which were part a chain of correspondence, showed Quin was asking why Rich had not been silenced.
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Hexis provides training and advice to suppliers of consumer goods.
The claim of heavy-handiness by Foodstuffs comes amid rising tensions on the eve of the publication by the Commerce Commission of its draft market study into the $22 billion groceries industry.
The commission is widely expected to recommend a new mandatory code – supported by Rich but opposed by Foodstuffs and Countdown – that will set out how the chains need to treat their suppliers.
There is some speculation the regulator may also suggest some sort of break up of the existing supermarket duopoly.
Comment has been sought from Foodstuffs on what it was Quin thought might be stopped, and why he appeared to be hopeful of assistance from Food & Grocery Council board members.
Quin is understood to be overseas and not available for comment.
Rich has this week deferred invitations to speak to Stuff until after the Commerce Commission’s study is released.
But in a LinkedIn post on Wednesday, the former National Party MP accused Foodstuffs North Island of threatening food suppliers with “extreme demands” and said an unnamed New World store owner had said its strategy was to “break people”.
Hogendijk said supermarket suppliers were afraid to ‘like’ such posts, fearing retribution.