Carrefour demanded confidential product data, says food industry – 03/06/2022

An email attached by Abia (Associação Brasileira da Indústria de Alimentos) to a lawsuit shows that in August of last year Carrefour started to request specific nutritional information about products – not required as mandatory display by the current labeling rule – from suppliers of network foods.

Among the information required by Carrefour were the “preparation method” of the products, the amount of total sugars and the percentage amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts, canola oil and olive oil.

The message was sent by Carrefour’s perishables commercial planning manager, Frederico Rezende Gomes, to one or more Abia member companies. The video tutorial linked at the end of the message has 148 views, which indicates that demands were made on a number of suppliers simultaneously.

According to the text, the provision of this information would be mandatory as of September 1, 2021 and a condition for “completion of registration” on Carrefour’s Supplier Portal.

“I ask attention to the topic because from the date in question [1º de setembro] this information becomes indispensable for completing the registration”, writes Gomes in the message.

In a note sent to Joio, Carrefour denies that it has conditioned the provision of information to the marketing of products on the network: “The company did not condition the registration of products to the sending of information for their sale on the network”.

The email sent by Gomes explains that the changes apply to the “sausage” sectors, which contain cold cuts and sausages, “dry [produtos alimentícios secos]”, “PAS [produtos de alta saída]”, which includes dairy products and frozen doughs, and “liquid except alcoholic”, which includes juices, soft drinks and energy drinks. In short, most of the supermarket food section.

Among the information requested is the method of preparation, “when necessary” – the email does not inform which categories would be subject to this requirement – the amount of sugar, and the percentage of composition of fruits, vegetables, canola oil, chestnuts and olive oil in each product.

Nourish Choice

The purpose of the request was to supply Carrefour’s Nutri Escolha app, which gives grades from “A” to “E” for products sold on the network and promises to facilitate cheaper and healthier choices.

The application uses the Nutri Score method, created in France and used voluntarily by food manufacturers in that country.

The Nutri Score uses the percentage of canola oil, nuts, fruits, vegetables and vegetables to give positive points to the products, and the sugar, salt and fat content to give negative points.

Added together, the points result in a note ranging from “A” to “E”. The closer to “A”, the healthier, and vice versa.

Screen prints displayed on Carrefour’s Nutri Escolha app

Image: Reproduction

fight of giants

In July last year, Abia denounced the Carrefour app at the National Consumer Secretariat (Senacon), linked to the Ministry of Justice – in a dispute that generated an exchange of accusations between the association and Carrefour.

The allegation is that the algorithm harms the magnifying glass system adopted by Anvisa, creates competitive imbalances and privileges Carrefour’s own brand products.

The Association also questions the use of data by Carrefour, claiming that the network does not have transparency in relation to the information received, and may use it for undeclared purposes.

Implicit is the concern that Carrefour will use this information to strengthen its Private Brand strategy – leveraging data used by suppliers to improve products sold under the “Carrefour” label.

Today, 15.3% of Carrefour’s total net food revenue is made up of private label products, which cost an average of 30% less when compared to market-leading brands.

In 2020, the retail multinational had, in Brazil, 2,769 food products sold under its own brand, 600 of them launched that year alone.

Defeat at Senacon

Less than a month after the complaint filed by Abia, Senacon determined the suspension of Nutri Escolha, claiming that the application misleads the consumer and gives high marks to ultra-processed products – against the recommendation of the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population.

It was then that Carrefour filed a writ of mandamus in the Federal Court, claiming that it had had the right to ample defense curtailed by Senacon.

In an attempt to participate in the process as an amicus curiae (friend of the court), Abia added to the file the e-mail that shows Carrefour’s requirement for confidential information.

“It’s about demanding nutritional information from companies about products
provided […] as a condition for registering the product to be marketed by Carrefour”, argued the association in the pleadings.

For the entity, Carrefour’s practice constitutes abuse of economic power and affronts the suppliers’ trade secret.

Carrefour’s answer

Carrefour is the largest supermarket chain in Brazil, with 72,000 employees and 498 physical stores throughout the country. In March 2021, the company announced the purchase of BIG (formerly Walmart), at the time the third largest chain in the country.

See Carrefour’s full response below:

“Nutri Escolha aims to provide information for the consumer to perform
your purchases in a more conscious way, facilitating your food choices. THE
nutritional score, derived from the Nutri-Score methodology, alerts about the importance
moderate and balanced consumption.

“The company did not condition the registration of products to the sending of information about the sale of
same on the network. We also reinforce that there is no favoring of products from
own brand.”