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BRUSSELS/ZURICH, Feb 21 (Reuters) - European supermarkets including Belgium's Colruyt and Switzerland's Coop have dropped some Nestle products, as a buying group representing them pushes for better prices.
Swiss Coop said it had stopped orders on more than 150 Nestle products, including Cailler Perle chocolate, Nescafe Azera coffee and pizza brand Buitoni La Fina, demanding better supply conditions.
The spat is the latest sign of the pressure on retailers and manufacturers as they grapple with changing consumer tastes towards healthier food, growth of online players like Amazon.com and shareholder pressure to boost profit margins.
Colruyt, known for its no-frills, low-cost strategy, confirmed on Wednesday it was a member of the AgeCore buying group and that talks were ongoing between AgeCore and Nestle.
"We are convinced that both parties, just as always, will reach an agreement," it said in a statement, declining to provide further details.
Nestle said it regretted consumers could not currently access its products in some stores in Europe. It said it continued to negotiate in good faith and hoped to find an amicable solution soon.
Italian supermarket chain Conad said AgeCore companies had reduced their purchases of Nestle products by around 20 percent, with negotiations underway over prices.
Geneva-based AgeCore could not immediately be reached for comment. According to its LinkedIn page, it represents Edeka in Germany, Eroski in Spain and Intermarche in France, as well as Colruyt, Conad and Swiss Coop.
Disagreements between manufacturers and retailers over price are commonplace and usually get worked out privately, though occasionally products get "delisted" temporarily.
In March last year, Britain's Tesco stopped selling several Heineken beers, and in October 2016, Unilever and Tesco had a row dubbed "Marmitegate" by the British press after the nation's iconic spread disappeared from some shelves.
It is easier for manufacturers to push through price rises when they can show their own ingredient costs have gone up. But recently many commodity prices have been stable. At the same time, there has been little growth in the volume of goods sold.
Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Jon Cox predicted the two sides would compromise.
"Ultimately innovation by Nestle is key - if they have consumer relevant products and concepts that others don't, retailers can't afford to turn Nestle away." (Reporting by Martinne Geller in London, Samantha Koester in Brussels, Elisa Anzolin in Milan, Angelika Gruber and Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich and Matthias Inverardi in Duesseldorf; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop, Georgina Prodhan and Mark Potter)