Coop tests controversial pricing policy

Switzerland’s biggest retailer, Coop, is testing out personalized pricing in its online store, offering some customers higher reductions than others on the same products.

Coop tests controversial pricing policy
Photo: Coop

Coop @ home hopes the new system will lead to higher turnover, Sunday newspapers reported.

The test has been launched against the backdrop of falling sales as shoppers take advantage of lower euro prices over the Swiss border.

August Harder, Coop’s head of IT, told the Schweiz am Sonntag that new software developed in Germany is being used to analyse individuals’ shopping orders.

In recent weeks reductions and special deals have been adjusted in line with these orders, with customers receiving personalized money-off coupons for certain items.

“We are still in the testing phase but hope to play a leading role in this area in Switzerland,” Harder said.

For the time being, personalized pricing is limited to Coop @ home with its range of food and near-food products.

“But if the test is successful it could be expanded to all our online stores as well as our shops,” Harder told the paper.

The test phase is expected to run until early 2016.

Coop’s biggest competitor, Migros, has ruled out adopting a similar pricing policy in its online store, LeShop.

“We want to treat all our customers equally and not discriminate against anyone on the basis of price,” spokesman Dominique Locher said, according to the newspaper report.

The Swiss consumer protection foundation criticized Coop over the move.

Spokesperson Sara Stalder told the 20 Minuten newspaper that offering lower prices in return for data was unfair and she warned customers would be indignant at paying different amounts for basic goods.

A number of retailers abroad have employed differentiated pricing. Amazon had to apologise to customers in 2000 when it became clear it was charging customers different amounts for its DVDs.

Even President Barack Obama has weighed in on the issue, warning against personalized pricing in a report issued in February, the newspaper said.


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Why the Ovomaltine drink is a true Swiss classic

If you have never tried Switzerland’s famous malt-based beverage, you may want to give it a try. It is just what the doctor ordered.

Why the Ovomaltine drink is a true Swiss classic

In more ways than one, Ovomaltine has a lot of ‘Swissness’ in it: it first saw the light of day in Bern, has a chocolaty flavour, and is consumed with milk.

If you are partial to chocolate drinks like Caotina or Suchard, the less sweet taste of Ovomaltine may not tickle your fancy as much, especially if you are discovering this beverage as an adult.

The Swiss, on the other hand, develop a taste for it in childhood, drinking it hot for breakfast or cold for zvieri / quatre-heures — a traditional snack the kids have in the afternoon when they return from school.

A perfect after-school drink. Photo: Pixabay

What exactly is Ovomaltine?

It is a – cocoa flavoured powder made from malt extract and dried eggs, which is dissolved in cold or hot milk — pretty much the same way as instant chocolate powder is.

However, it is less sweet than a traditional cocoa drink, with a distinct malty flavour.

Ovomaltine is a brainchild of a chemist Georg Wander who lived in the second half of the 19th century.
The only blemish in this Swiss success story is that Wander was actually German. However, as many German immigrants then and now, he was naturalised and settled in Bern, where he opened a laboratory which manufactured tinctures, ointments, oils and beverages.

This is how we got interested in malt, and in how its extracts could be used in various edible forms.

However, it was only after his death that Wander’s son, Albert, perfected his father’s recipe, launching the early version of Ovomaltine in 1904.

It was originally marketed as a doctor-recommended health drink, although how much of this is actually true is debatable.

Strengthening Switzerland’s defences

According to House of Switzerland organisation, “though Ovomaltine was never strictly proven to have medicinal properties, the product began to conquer all sorts of new consumers and markets, including nursing mothers, exhausted factory workers, stressed motorists and sports people. Next the Swiss wonder drink was adopted by the armed forces, where it was deployed to ‘strengthen Switzerland’s defences’.” 

For decades, Ovomaltine had been sold in large orange tins, though over the years the original powder morphed into a wide variety of products, including candy, biscuits and chocolate spread.

And if you think the world ‘Ovomaltine’ sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because its sweeter version is sold in foreign countries under the ‘Ovaltine’ label.

These are some other typically Swiss foods:

What is Aromat and why are the Swiss so obsessed with it

How can we explain the Swiss obsession with the drink Rivella?