Boar's Head responds to 'exclusivity' charges

by Bryan Salvage
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FORT MYERS, FLA. — Dietz & Watson claims it faced "an onslaught of disruption" at five separate fundraising event sites in Florida last weekend by distributors of rival company Boar’s Head Provisions Co. Inc. Boar’s Head, however, dismisses these charges and classifies what happened as a "misunderstanding" regarding the intent of the events.

D&W charged in a news release its competitor in the deli case "sent a fleet of nearly 40 large box trucks and vans to cause overall chaos and intimidate Dietz & Watson event staffers and store owners" while holding events to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure (breast cancer research) and sample their premium deli meats in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte, Fla. over the weekend.

Dietz & Watson was holding three separate fundraising events that day in Fort Myers for Susan G. Komen for the Cure of SW Florida, an organization dedicated to battling breast cancer. "The fleet of Boar’s Head trucks moved from event to event and caused chaos and disruption at each of them," D&W claimed.

"At Dietz & Watson, we have always been believers that competition was good for business and good for customers, but I just cannot believe that Boar’s Head would stoop to the low level they did today," said Louis Eni, president and chief executive officer of Dietz & Watson, of last weekend’s events. "I can’t [imagine] that Bob Martin [president of Boar’s Head] would sanction his distributors disrupting charity fundraising events."

Dietz & Watson’s news release went on to say the practice of deli-case exclusivity (read "Dietz & Watson protests competitor’s exclusivity policy" in the July 30th edition of www.meatpoultry.com) needs to stop, or shoppers will continue to lose -- both on choice and on price -- which competition helps to control. They are asking Florida customers to speak up and demand choice in the deli case.

RuthAnn LaMore, director of communications for Boar's Head Provisions Co. Inc., told MEATPOULTRY.com by phone that Boar’s Head distributors were unaware last weekend’s events were part of a fundraising campaign until they arrived on the scene. She added Boar’s Head is a corporate sponsor of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure on a national level.

"Our distributors as independent businessmen and women chose to rally their fellow distributors in southwest Florida to participate in those events. Always, the consumer has the right to choose, but [Boar’s Head distributors] wanted to support our position in the marketplace. They never had any intention of disrupting events that were raising money for Susan G. Komen."

Boar’s Head distributors made the decision to attend this event; it was not a corporate decision, Ms. LaMore stressed. "But when they got down there and saw it was a Susan G. Komen event happening, they quickly retreated. They were at no retail account longer than 15-20 minutes."

Ms. LaMore acknowledges some people may have misunderstood the intention of Boar’s Head’s distributors arriving at these events. She said area distributors spoke with an official with the Susan G. Komen organization and explained the incident. "She was [the official] was very understanding of what happened, very supportive of us as is the national group."

When asked about Dietz & Watson’s recent claims that Boar’s Head demands exclusivity agreements from its customers, Ms. LaMore replied, "This has been going on for months and we have chosen not to comment." However, in light of recent developments, the company decided to break its "no-comment" policy. "Boar’s Head does not have an exclusivity policy with our retailers.

"It’s really the retailers who are making the choice in every single solitary situation [to offer Boar’s Head as their only premium deli offering]. When they decide to do business with us, they choose to feature one premium brand. It is not because Boar’s Head insists that’s the only way we’ll do business with them," she said.

She added: "Dietz & Watson is not happy about losing market share and this is their publicity tactic to at least plant the idea in the consumer’s mind they are not being allowed to have a choice. We invite competition; it’s healthy. We’re not trying to inhibit it."

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