Former boss of food group Hillsdown Holdings and one-time Tory defence secretary John Knott, has weighed into the debate about the future of the UK grocery market with a damning attack on the power of the leading food retailers.
In a letter to the Competition Commission, which is currently scrutinising the sector, Knott, who resigned as defence secretary during the Falklands War, said: "The supermarket chain has to be broken up. It is utterly detrimental to the wider health of consumers, producers and the environment."
As chairman of Hillsdown, a leading supplier of poultry, eggs, pork and bacon, Knott claimed he had been under "constant siege" from the supermarkets, who threatened to delist products unless discounts were offered. They would also "blackmail" suppliers to make them contribute to the cost of promotions, artwork, packaging and even to the building of new stores, he added.
So far, very few food manufacturers have publicly responded to the Commission's recent "emerging thinking" document on the groceries market. But those willing to put their heads above the parapet have called on regulators to ban the practice of seeking retrospective discounts from suppliers.
The Competition Commission will issue the provisional findings of its inquiry in May.