Today's Raleigh N&O reports local restauranteurs' reaction to the proposed merger between Sysco and US Foods. The FTC is trying to stop the merger, claiming that the combined firm would have 75% of the market.
Reaction to the merger appears to be mixed. Some support the merger, believing that it will result in greater bargaining power for those who buy the products needed for food service operations and that the price cuts will be passed along to them. Others are concerned that the competition between Sysco and US Foods will vanish and that prices will rise.
Much hinges (as it always does in antitrust cases) on the question of market definition. In other words, 75% of what market? The FTC claims the market definition should be "broadline food-service distribution;" in other words, the 18-wheelers that make the rounds every day. Sysco says this definition vastly understates the options available to restaurants, who can deal with smaller distributors or even go to the farmers' market and Costco.
One last note: I was a bit surprised to see a number of local restaurants that pride themselves on their close relationships with local farmers on their menu, but still depend on Sysco for a good chunk of their food supplies.
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