After Nutella frenzy, French government prepares to tighten supermarket rules

Agence France-Presse
Jars of Nutella chocolate-hazelnut paste are displayed in a Casino supermarket in Nice, France, January 16, 2017.

Eric Gaillard/Reuters

The French government has implored supermarkets to refrain from the kind of promotion deals that have led to in-store scuffles over cut-price jars of Nutella, a minister said Wednesday.

Videos of French shoppers jostling as they tried to grab heavily discounted tubs of the chocolate spread in Intermarche stores have gone viral over the past week.

"I met with the director of Intermarche yesterday," Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said, as his government prepared to unveil a bill later Wednesday that will tighten rules on supermarket promotions.

"I told him that this must be stopped — we can't have scenes like this every few days in France," Le Maire told RTL radio.

Intermarche sparked the shopping frenzy last Thursday when it slashed the price of a 2-pound pot of Nutella — a favored breakfast spread in France — from 4.50 euros to 1.41 euros.

The three-day promotion prompted shoving and even full-blown fights in several stores, with one worker likening the scenes to "an orgy."

Intermarche apologized to customers, but it has since continued with aggressive discounts on coffee and nappies.

The DGCCRF consumer agency on Monday announced it was launching an investigation into the discounts. 

Le Maire urged Intermarche to "stop this kind of promotion," saying that the pushing and shoving seen as customers clamored to get their hands on the Nutella tubs must not become "normalied".

He reminded Intermarche's management that like other supermarket chains, it had already "signed a deal to no longer carry out these kind of promotions. They must keep their word."

Videos of the shopping frenzy have been shared thousands of times on social media, with comedian Anthony Joubert racking up 700,000 plays on a song featuring the lyrics, "A euro for Nutella, I'd kill a mother or father for that."

Ferrero, the Italian company that makes Nutella, said the discount decision was taken "unilaterally" by Intermarche and risked creating "confusion and disappointment" for consumers.