Pete Buttigieg had nothing to do with a decadelong scheme to fix the price of bread across Canada, his campaign said in a statement, despite an internet theory that bubbled up after Buttigieg disclosed that he had done consulting work on supermarket pricing for the Canadian chain Loblaws during his time at McKinsey.
Buttigieg’s campaign told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that the Democratic presidential candidate had not worked on bread pricing specifically, instead focusing more broadly on price cuts across the Canadian chain, and that he had only recently heard of the “bread scandal” that has become notorious across Canada.
“He was part of a team that ran analytics and put together a model to help this supermarket chain determine how much — and in what stores— they could make certain items more affordable in order to gain new customers,” Buttigieg campaign spokesperson Sean Savett told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
Loblaw Companies, the parent company of Loblaws, admitted in 2017 to participating in a scheme to steadily increase the price of packaged bread. The Canadian government alleged in court documents that Loblaw and many of Canada’s other large bakers had colluded to fix bread prices over a period of at least 14 years.
Until Tuesday, the specifics of Buttigieg’s work at the global consulting firm McKinsey had been kept secret — Buttigieg said he was bound by a nondisclosure agreement that kept him from disclosing the clients he had worked for. He faced mounting pressure from Democratic rivals, however, to release that information.
After McKinsey released him from that agreement, Buttigieg’s campaign released a list of clients, which included several US government agencies, like the Department of Energy, and companies like Best Buy and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
The inclusion of Loblaws, where Buttigieg said he had analyzed “the effects of price cuts on various combinations of items across hundreds of stores,” set off a firestorm among Canadians on Twitter, who speculated that Buttigieg might have been involved in the scheme at Loblaws.
Loblaw Companies said Buttigieg had not been involved in the bread price-fixing scheme.
"We retained McKinsey in 2008 to better understand how we could lower prices for customers across a number of categories," the company said in a statement. " That was the extent of their work with us during that time."
This story has been updated to clarify the distinction between Loblaw Companies and Loblaws.