Supermarket faces prosecution for French Nutella frenzy

For frenzied shoppers cut-price Nutella was worth fighting for

French supermarket chain Intermarche faces prosecution over heavy discounts that sparked frenzied scenes as customers jostled to get their hands on cut-price jars of Nutella, anti-fraud authorities said Thursday.

Videos of shoppers pushing and shoving as they tried to grab tubs of the chocolate spread -- a breakfast favourite in France -- went viral on the internet last month.

The DGCCRF fraud watchdog said its investigation showed Intermarche had illegally sold the spread at below-cost, adding that it had transferred the case to prosecutors.

The supermarket could face a maximum fine of 375,000 euros ($461,000) for the aggressive pricing strategy, used to draw shoppers in to spend on other products.

The chain also slapped the 70 percent discount on Pampers nappies, Carte Noire cafe and Perrier sparkling water.

"Our agents have concluded that Intermarche did not respect measures in place concerning selling at a loss, which is a criminal offence," a DGCCRF spokeswoman told AFP.

Intermarche has apologised after its three-day promotion prompted shoving and even full-blown fights in several stores over the Nutella.

The price of a 950-gram (2-pound) jar went down from 4.50 euros ($5.60) to 1.41 euros overnight, sparking scenes that one worker likened to "an orgy".

Videos of the shopping frenzy were shared thousands of times on social media, with comedian Anthony Joubert racking up a million plays on a song featuring the lyrics, "A euro for Nutella, I'd kill a mother or father for that."

The chain did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Ferrero, the Italian company that makes Nutella, said the discount decision was taken "unilaterally" by Intermarche and risked creating "confusion and disappointment" for consumers.