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Fair game? Lidl Germany goes after Iglo fish fingers in new ad campaign

The aggressive 'It's your choice' campaign the first of its kind launched by a discounter in Germany.

Discounter Lidl heralded a new era in the battle between retail brands and private label in Germany earlier this month with the launch of a new promotional campaign.

The 'Du hast die Wahl' ('It's your choice') campaign is banking on consumers to be lured by the discounter's competitive prices, which it insinuates comes without a difference in quality.

German shoppers now regularly see stronger, more expensive brands compete against stronger but cheaper private label brands on billboards, TV and radio, as well as in weekly brochures and stores.

From Coca Cola's battles with Freeway Cola, Kerry Gold's fight with Milbona Golden Hills butter and Iglo's competition with Lidl's own-brand Ocean Sea fish fingers, the discount wars have only grown more fierce.

What is the norm in markets such as the United Kingdom -- where Aldi has been targeting price-sensitive consumers with its "Like Brand. Only cheaper." campaign since 2011 -- is new to Germany. In fact, the new campaign marks the first time Lidl has launched such an aggressive effort against brands in the country.

Same quality?

Some in the Alaska pollock industry see the move as a worrisome trend, with one source on the US supply side telling IntraFish Iglo and Ocean Sea fish fingers are not comparable.

The Lidl product -- reportedly processed mostly by Greenland Seafood -- is "most likely double-frozen from China or single-frozen from Russia," while Iglo's product is most likely US origin once-frozen raw material, the supplier said.

A quick search online reveals indeed the pollock used for Lidl's product is caught in the fishing area FAO 61 in the northwest Pacific, which includes the Sea of Okhotsk.

The raw material in Iglo's product -- as seen in the frozen aisle at Lidl in early September -- originated in either the Alaskan Bering Sea or the Sea of Okhotsk, according to the packaging and a tracker on the company's website.

But Alaska pollock industry sources said the group uses US-harvested single-frozen pollock for the products. Earlier this year, the company also announced it shifted all its frozen fish production to single-frozen pollock.

No information is given where the fish is actually processed, and there's no law in Germany -- or in the European Union -- that requires processors to share that information, Matthias Keller, managing director of the German Fish Processors Association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Fischindustrie und des Fischgroßhandels), told IntraFish.

However, he believes that some of the pollock caught by Russian suppliers is "very likely to go through China. Russia simply doesn't have the capacity to process it all in the country."

Both packages also bear the species name Alaska pollock (Alaska Seelachs). In the United States, a 2015 law requires that the geographic descriptor Alaska can only be used on pollock harvested from that state.

But in Germany a similar regulation would confuse consumers, Keller said, as "Pollock" is yet another type of fish in the German language.

Pollock was introduced to the German market as "Alaska pollock" decades ago and "everyone knows that it doesn't necessarily has to come from Alaska. It's simply the species," Keller said.

Iglo: Campaign is publicity for us too

Lidl declined to comment to IntraFish on these variables regarding the origin of the product.

"The excellent price of our whole product range has always been at the focus of our marketing communications," a spokesperson said.

"With the current campaign, we want to highlight the variety and price of both our branded and private label products. But the decision is obviously still up to them."

She also declined to comment on Lidl's future strategy and relationship with suppliers such as Iglo.

"We've had a trusting relationship with our producers and suppliers for many years -- and that won't change in the future," she said.

A spokesperson at Iglo Germany told IntraFish it had not been informed about the campaign ahead of its launch.

"Retailers usually decide on their promotional activities without informing suppliers," he said.

As long as the campaign "doesn't showcase incorrect or invalid comparisons, there's no objection to it," he went on saying, adding the campaign is publicity for Iglo's fish fingers too.

Competition is "good for business and a good branded product always convinces," he said.


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