Mark White Portrait

Groceries Code Adjudicator Mark White said this week he believed supermarket buyers had been “overwhelmed” by the sheer number of CPI requests, as inflation-related delistings continue to threaten relationships with suppliers.

The Adjudicator is to launch his latest YouGov survey on Monday 16 January, and is calling for suppliers to come forward if they believe they have been treated unfairly or illegally.

Last year’s survey found more than a quarter of the direct suppliers who responded had experienced a request for a cost price increase (CPI) being refused or the implementation being unreasonably delayed.

White, who is understood to be in arbitration processes involving several different disputes between retailers and suppliers, has so far held back from launching an official investigation into delistings.

“What we’ve heard in the last year is that buyers have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of CPI requests,” he told The Grocer.

“Anecdotally I have heard about young, inexperienced buyers being used as cannon fodder to delay implementation of CPIs.

“I think all retailers have struggled with the high volume from an administrative and commercial perspective, given the competitiveness of pricing.”

White held talks with all the retailers policed under the code in November to “intensify” discussion over CPIs, and said all were making efforts to improve support and training given to buyers.

“Since my last survey, inflation has continued to affect the entire groceries sector, straining the relationships between retailers and suppliers. I am concerned about how the retailers are responding to CPI requests and whether this pressure is causing other issues to arise.

“I want to hear from as many suppliers as possible so I can understand the ongoing impact of inflation and other issues affecting suppliers. This will help me to work with the retailers to ensure they are treating all suppliers fairly and legally.”

The survey will be open for six weeks, closing on 26 February.

This week, Tesco boss Ken Murphy said the supermarket was fighting a “constant battle” with suppliers to keep prices down, amid a torrent of CPI requests.