The move follows a probe last week into the pricing practices of 60 drug makers by China’s main economic planning agency, and another into infant formula manufacturers.
The latter led to manufacturers, including Nestlé, agreeing to cut their prices by up to one-fifth as soon as they learnt of the regulatory investigation.
Zhang Mao, head of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, said that the probe covered 20 provinces and municipalities.
Zhang said in a speech published on the regulator’s website: “To enhance antitrust law enforcement, SAIC has filed a case against Tetra Pak Group for possible abuse of market dominance and will conduct relevant investigations.”
A spokesman for Tetra Pak, Christopher Huntley, confirmed the investigation and told FoodNavigator-Asia's sister site, DairyReporter.com, that Chinese regulators had requested from the company information related to its China operations, but otherwise remained tight-lipped.
"There is very little we can say on this matter at the moment," said Huntley. "We can confirm that the Chinese State Administration of Industry and Commerce has asked the company to provide them with information related to our business in China.
"At this stage, however, we have no further information regarding their inquiries, or any formal investigation. We will, of course, continue to operate with SAIC, going forward."
While some have seen this increasingly intense antitrust activity as a witch hunt targeting international corporations, it is more likely a result of regulators being given more teeth – and using them.
Citing the Tetra Pak investigation, Zhang said SAIC was now focusing its efforts on “increasing the intensity of anti-monopoly law enforcement investigations” with special emphasis on chemicals, food, nutrition and commodities.
Zhang added that the administration was launching more investigations against market monopolies and unfair competition, with SAIC already having investigated 23 monopoly cases, of which 12 resulted in fines.
Headquartered in Switzerland, Tetra Pak is one of the world's largest liquid food packaging suppliers. It was once punished by the European Union for its monopoly.
In China – its biggest market by revenue – the company has been repeatedly accused of abusing its market position, triggering the on-site inspection and on-going probes, the administration said.
Tetra Pak entered the China market in 1972, and has a research centre in Shanghai and packaging materials plants in several Chinese cities.