Saturday, February 4, 2023

CMA unwinds dough deal between Cérélia and Jus-Rol

Following an in-depth review, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found Cérélia’s purchase of Jus-Rol could leave UK retailers and shoppers facing higher prices and lower quality products.

The CMA has concluded the only way to preserve the degree of competition and choice for consumers is for the Jus-Rol business to be sold to an independent buyer, to be approved by the CMA.

Ready-to-bake products – including staples such as shortcrust and puff pastry, pizza and patisserie dough – are sold in all major food retailers, with UK shoppers spending over £100 million every year on these products. Jus-Rol is by far the largest supplier of branded ready-to-bake products in the UK, while Cérélia is the largest supplier of own-label ready-to-bake products, making these items on behalf of some of the nation’s largest grocery retailers.

In June 2022, CMA launched an in-depth investigation into the deal after an initial Phase 1 investigation identified possible competition concerns. Over the past 7 months, a panel of independent CMA experts has analysed a wide range of evidence from Cérélia and Jus-Rol, grocery retailers and other industry players in order to fully understand the market, as well as the potential impact of the deal.

Following the publication of its provisional findings in November 2022, the CMA has published its final decision in its in-depth review of the deal.

That decision finds that the merger brings together the 2 leading suppliers in the market by a considerable margin, with ready-to-bake items supplied by Cérélia and Jus-Rol accounting for nearly two-thirds of all such products sold to grocery retailers in the UK.

The evidence gathered by the CMA shows that, while there are differences between the companies’ products, Jus-Rol items compete with supermarkets’ own-label products supplied by Cérélia for the same space on many supermarket shelves.

Evidence from grocery retailers shows that they consider the companies’ products to be important alternatives to one another – particularly because there are few credible alternative suppliers of either branded or own-label products. Grocers also told the CMA that the ability to trade off Jus-Rol against Cérélia, and vice versa, when buying their products allows them to get a better deal for their customers.

The CMA’s investigation found that, at present, the 2 businesses face limited competition, with all other suppliers being far smaller and many of them lacking the capabilities held by Cérélia and Jus-Rol. It is also unlikely that any new supplier would enter the market – or a present supplier expand its activities – in a sufficiently timely way to address the loss of competition brought about by the deal.

Given these findings, the CMA has concluded that the merger would substantially lessen competition, putting UK grocers at risk of higher prices and lower quality products – which could ultimately be passed on to shoppers.

Margot Daly, chair of the independent panel of experts conducting this Phase 2 investigation, said: “As living costs continue to rise, it’s our responsibility to make sure that competition can play its part in delivering the best possible deals for customers.

“Cérélia and Jus-Rol are the biggest players in this market by far and losing the competition that takes place between them could result in customers facing higher prices and worse quality products. Today’s decision will ensure that doesn’t happen.”

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