Page 6: Unilever´s case
Unilever put forward the argument that 'the provision of brand-linked freezer cabinets is in the best interests of the trade and the consumer because it allows the widest possible availability of impulse ice creams, in good condition, at affordable prices.'
Unilever argue that they need to 'protect our assets from piracy by other ice cream suppliers.' They argue that they are making an 'overall offer' to consumers which includes both the ice cream and the freezer. Mars has faced the same hurdle which has stood in the way of many technological innovations over the years, that of being able to compete on a level playing field. In June 1992 Mars wrote to the impulse trade stating that:
'We are in favour of free competition and consumer choice; the top brands sell faster, you should be allowed to stock them; Mars has three of the top five best sellers; no one but Wall's believes in exclusivity agreements; take the advice of the Ice Cream Alliance and get your own freezer; call the Mars Freezeline if you want help.'
The only way for a market to flourish, Mars agreed, was for the retailer to stock the ice cream brands the consumer wants to buy, not the brands the manufacturer dictates. Freezer exclusivity means that consumer sales values of individual brands are largely determined by the extent of the manufacturer's freezer base. The success of an individual brand consequently is not necessarily the result of popularity or consumer preference. This was highlighted in a recent article in 'European Competition Law Review' which stated that Wall's success in the impulse sector was not a result of superior quality/price mix, but because of the monopoly the company maintains in the impulse sector.