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Giant Eagle, other retailers charge chocolate companies with collusion

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH Grocer Giant Eagle last week filed suit against confectionary giants Hershey, Mars, Nestle and Cadbury Schweppes in U.S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania, charging the companies have been colluding on the pricing of chocolate since 2002 through 2008. “This action arises out of an international conspiracy among the world’s leading manufacturers of chocolate confectionery products [chocolate bars, boxed chocolates and seasonal novelty chocolates, as specified in the complaint] to fix, raise, maintain or stabilize prices for those products in Canada and the United States,” the complaint states, citing ongoing investigations by both the Canadian competition authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice. European authorities, including Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, are also investigating the companies for alleged price fixing, the complaint adds.

The Giant Eagle lawsuit is at least the fourth such lawsuit to be filed this month. In the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania, CVS and Rite Aid filed a joint suit March 21 versus the aforementioned defendants alleging price collusion. Publix filed suit March 10 and Meijer March 7. Kroger, Safeway, Walgreens and Hy-Vee filed a joint suit March 6.

Citing statistics reported by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Giant Eagle complaint places wholesale sales of chocolate candy in the U.S. at approximately $10.2 billion, with retail sales totaling $15.6 billion. A June 2007 report from Matrade New York reported that U.S. chocolate candy sales in 2006 totaled approximately 56 percent of all candy sales, Giant Eagle added. “Defendants collectively control almost 50 percent of the global chocolate confectionery products market, with Hershey controlling 8.2 percent, Nestle 12.6 percent, Cadbury 7.5 percent and Mars 14.8 percent,” the complain reads. “Defendants The Hershey C., Mars, Inc., and Nestle USA collectively possess approximately 80 percent of the U.S. chocolate confectionery products market, with The Hershey Co. possessing about 45 percent, Mars, Inc. about 27 percent and Nestle about 9 percent.”

Giant Eagle has requested a jury trial for the case.

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Hershey launches Bliss chocolates with parties

BY Jenna Duncan

HERSHEY, Pa. The Hershey Co. has announced that it will hold 10,000 parties as part of its launch of Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate candies in late April.

Launch parties have been planned across the U.S. for the weekend of April 25 to 27 to introduce Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate, a bite-sized confection in three varieties—dark chocolate, milk chocolate and milk chocolate meltaway.

Hershey is targeting female consumers with a campaign inviting them to plan and host a Bliss chocolate party and directing them to register at the Web site www.houseparty.com/hersheysbliss.

The 9.6-ounce packages of Hershey’s Bliss Chocolate candies are currently available at U.S. grocery, mass and drug stores.

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TrimWater purported to help those watching their weight

BY Jenna Duncan

NEW YORK A study released by the New York City Department of Health stated that between years 2002 and 2004, the obesity rate in New York City went up 17 percent. New York City health commissioner Thomas Frieden has said that to avoid health issues stemming from obesity, New Yorkers should consume fewer calories.

To address the issue, Lifestyle Beverages, the makers of TrimWater diet drink, are touting their H2O alternative as beneficial to health because it contains low amounts of calories and sugar.

Eight flavors of TrimWater are on the market, including black cherry-blackberry, blueberry-pear, lemon-citrus, passionfruit-berry, peach-mango, pink grapefruit-honey, pomegranate-cranberry and raspberry-vanilla. The health drinks also reportedly contain no artificial colors, artificial flavors, aspartame, carbonation or preservatives.

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