Netto is backing down on its previously-announced intention to stock more food from Poland on its shelves. The chain, which operates under the Dansk Supermarked umbrella along with Føtex and Bilka, met with intense criticism from customers when it announced its plans to import more food from Poland. The company said that it was looking east in an effort to offer customers more low-cost products.
“[We'll bring] anything that can fit in a truck and be here in 12 to 14 hours,” Claus Juel-Jensen, the head of the discount chain, told Jyllands-Posten yesterday. “That covers our entire stock, including fresh fish.”
The negative customer response to the store’s plan to purchase the “best and cheapest” food available, regardless of where it came from, forced Juel-Jensen to change his mind.
“We can see that customers want Danish products, and it is the customers who ultimately decide what we stock in Netto,” Juel-Jensen told Berlingske newspaper.
Although many posted on Netto's Facebook page that they were "finished with Netto" because of the decision, others called it "pure nationalism" on the part of those Danes who would boycott the store over Polish goods.
"Should Netto also drop its French pate and Spanish oranges?" asked one poster.
Netto would not go as far as saying that there would be no Polish goods in their stores as a result of the customer backlash. The company already stocks a variety of products from Poland, Germany and Sweden. The reaction does mean, however, that some Polish products – such as fresh meat – will not make it to Netto’s shelves.
It was not only customers who weighed in against Netto’s Polish plans, the nation's agriculture, food and consumer council also opposed the idea.
“Netto can, of course, do as they please, but [Denmark] produces safe food without medical wastes and salmonella ” Annette Toft, a researcher in food policy at Landbrug & Fødevarer og Forbrugerrådet, told Berlingske newspaper. “In the latest study on pesticides, we were miles ahead of our competitors abroad, and we think that is important to consumers.”
The agriculture minister, Mette Gjerskov (Socialdemokraterne), expressed her distaste for Netto’s plans on her Twitter feed yesterday:
“Netto will buy Polish goods. Hmm. That means more pesticides, bad animal husbandry and less pay. You choose!,” she wrote.
Netto said the original decision to purchase more goods from Poland was to strengthen its position against international discount chains like Aldi and Lidl, which buy goods from a much wider variety of suppliers than Netto. The move would have also put Danish food suppliers in direct competition with those from Poland.