EU Parliament to investigate ‘double standards’ in FMCG

The European Parliament has ordered an investigation which will determine whether the "better quality" of, for instance, German products is an old wives' tale or do producers actually sell worse products under the same name in different EU countries. Photo: PAP/EPA/PATRICK SEEGER

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on the problem of differences in products sold on the EU market, as some companies’ products differ, for instance, in Germany and Poland.

Click here to read an analysis from Poland in English.

“Double standards in quality” are a problem primarily for newer EU members, particularly in Eastern Europe. Some producers use cheaper ingredients for products sold in countries which joined the Union relatively recently, such as Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria.

According to experts, laundry powders sold on the German market are more effective than their brand equivalent sold in Poland. Therefore, shops offering “German detergents” are still popular among Poles.

Bulgarian MEP Eva Maydell told private broadcaster TVN that chocolate bars had “fewer nuts in Bulgaria than in Western Europe.”

Czesław Siekierski, a MEP from the Polish People’s Party, indicated that in the past, companies changed their ingredient list in order to sell products cheaper in “poorer markets” of Central-Eastern Europe.

A chip off the old block?

A popular brand of tortilla chips which entered the Polish market this year met a wave of opposition after consumers revealed the company used palm oil for their products sold in Poland, while using sunflower oil in products sold in Western Europe.

Not only does palm oil contain more harmful fats, but it is also less eco friendly than sunflower oil. The chips sold in Poland also contain MSG, unlike in other countries. Polish consumers felt fooled and strongly opposed this “double standard” practice on social media.

Last week, the owner of the brand, PepsiCo, decided that the composition of its crisps sold in Poland would change starting from 2019, and palm oil would be completely abandoned.

Resolution follows investigation

The European Parliament had ordered an investigation. Experts are currently testing products from 16 EU regional markets. The results will be revealed in late 2018.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution concerning the issue on September 13. The resolution states that the European Parliament “highlights that cases of such significant differences concern not only food products but frequently also non-food products, including detergents, cosmetics, toiletries and products intended for babies.”

As a solution to the problem the European Parliament recommends, among other regulations, introducing a ban on labelling and branding products in a “seemingly identical manner” if the product “differs in certain characteristics” on different EU markets.

source: TVN24, WP

Comment:

Twenty-five or 30 years ago Westerners invited into the welcoming homes of Poles may have smiled ironically to see that pride of place on the top of shelving units was given to a display of foreign bottles and cans.

The same was the case in homes scattered across the countries emerging from the Soviet Bloc. Anything with “foreign” looking writing on it was considered “better” than what was available in local shops in grey, outdated packaging.

Now, in the age where one factory, based in CEE manufactures goods for the whole of Europe, consumers here are still convinced that the products for the German market are better.

While in some cases this might be true, in others the only thing which is different is the price, as international brands often used discriminatory pricing in CEE that worked in consumers’ favour in Western markets.

The result of the legislation might be indeed that easterners are not discriminated against in terms of ingredients. However, it may also simply lead to price rises.


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