The owner of pet food brands Whiskas, Dreamies and Pedigree has paused supplies to Tesco in a new row over price rises.
Supplies of some of the brands owned by US group Mars were running low in stores and online in the supermarket chain’s second fallout with a major supplier in a fortnight. Mars’ chocolate and confectionery products are not affected by the dispute.
Tesco is yet to resolve a dispute with Heinz, the baked bean, ketchup and soup maker, which paused supplies last week in a dispute over price rises thought to be more than 30%. Suppliers are trying to pass on rising costs to supermarkets, which in turn are trying to limit the amount they have to pass on to customers.
The independent retail analyst Steve Dresser, of Grocery Insight, said he had spotted gaps on shelves for key Mars petfoods in Tesco. He added in a tweet that labels indicated “no stock arriving to store until 23 July”.
Re: Tesco & Mars Pet:
Gaps definitely opening up on shelf, with the labels indicating no stock arriving to store until 23rd July.
All on Mars brands - Cesar, Whiskas & Pedigree. pic.twitter.com/u7787qVqBZ
— Steve Dresser (@dresserman) July 4, 2022
A Tesco spokesperson said: “With household budgets under increasing pressure, now more than ever we have a responsibility to ensure customers get the best possible value, and we will not pass on unjustifiable price increases to our customers.
“We’re sorry that this means some products aren’t available right now, but we have plenty of alternatives to choose from and we hope to have this issue resolved soon.”
A spokesperson for Mars said the company wanted to reassure pet owners that its products were “widely available” in the UK although some products were out of stock at Tesco. “We cannot comment on individual commercial relationships or situations,” the spokesperson added.
Industry insiders say Tesco is attempting to use its muscle as the UK’s largest retailer to head off price rises from suppliers which are being implemented across the industry as a result of increases in the cost of energy, fuel, labour, packaging and raw ingredients.
Research by The Grocer trade journal using data from research firm Assosia highlights a string of price rises on Mars petcare products in recent weeks.
A 12 pack of 85g Sheba Select Slices cat food pouches, for instance, rose 50p to £5 in Asda this week and was subject to the same 11% price increase in Sainsbury’s and Morrisons last month.
The public spat is seen as a way for the supermarket to promote its efforts to keep prices down in the face of inflation.
Tesco’s latest row with a big supplier comes after its stocks of Haribo sweets dwindled in 2020 in a dispute over price while brands including Marmite and Ben & Jerry’s were pulled from its shelves several years ago in a row with Unilever.
A deal was reached within 24 hours of that row going public after the share price of both companies fell.