Dietz & Watson protest competitor's exclusivity policy

by Bryan Salvage
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PHILADELPHIA — Dietz & Watson, the No. 2 deli meat brand in the U.S., is crying foul against Sarasota, Fla.-based Boar's Head Provisions Co. Inc., which it charges is demanding a "one-choice-only" policy in grocery stores throughout the country regarding deli meat products. This practice of deli-case exclusivity needs to stop, or shoppers will continue to lose, D&W claims.

"Dietz & Watson has never shied away from competition — we've been producing the finest deli meats and cheeses for 70 years," said Louis Eni, president and chief executive officer. "We would never — ever — consider demanding that grocery stores carry only our premium products at the exclusion of others. We want to win on quality and taste, not by cutting off competitors. That disrespects consumers. Yet, that's exactly what Boar's Head has been doing to grocery store chains across the country — essentially telling grocers, 'If you want to sell our product, you can't offer your customers any other premium choices.' Exclusivity is selfish and it needs to stop."

Mr. Eni said the Harris Teeter grocery chain in North Carolina was recently forced to tell its customers they could no longer choose to purchase Dietz & Watson products because they wanted to offer Boar's Head as another choice. Consistent with Boar's Head's anti-choice approach, he added, Boar's Head wouldn't allow a premium competitor to sell alongside them in the deli case.

A Harris Teeter spokeswoman told a local newspaper that customers enjoyed Dietz & Watson products — which she called "outstanding" — and that making the change was a "difficult decision," Mr. Eni said.

"It was a decision, frankly, that they never should have had to make," he added. "Harris Teeter is a terrific grocer and we have been proud to sell our products in their stores. They didn't want to see us go, and neither did their customers."

Mr. Eni said as Dietz & Watson continues to grow and thrive, its going to enter new markets and reach new customers. "But as we grow, I pledge today that our company will never ask for exclusivity in grocery stores," he added. "Customers deserve choices and I'm confident, if offered a choice, they'll choose Dietz & Watson more often than not. The bottom line is they will have had a choice — and that's what this is all about.

"I challenge Boar's Head to take the same pledge — to compete like everyone else. After all, if they believe their products are superior, what's to be afraid of? Choice is good. It's what all customers deserve," he concluded.

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