Interbrew UK is targeting thousands of free traders during a two-month drive to try and convince the sector of the "commercial sense" of stocking draught Stella Artois.

Interbrew UK's distribution push for Stella, which accounts for around one in three pints of premium lager sold in the UK (AC Nielsen) will run during March and April.

It will be spearheaded by a direct mail campaign to thousands of non-stockists and a telemarketing campaign to retailers who will be encouraged to stock the brand. There will also be a sales-force push, targeting thousands of suitable non-stockist outlets nationwide.

"Thousands of independent free traders are losing out heavily because they are failing to stock the most successful premium lager brand," said Allan Tudor, director of sales at Interbrew UK.

"Draught distribution in the free trade lags well behind the market as a whole and we are committed to closing that 'distribution divide' with this concerted push.  Stella Artois has outperformed the draught lager market by some margin," he added.

According to Interbrew UK the "distribution divide" between free traders and retailers generally is significant. Only one in five (22%) of independent free traders stock draught Stella Artois. And almost one in three (29%) of on-trade outlets nationally stock the brand, making it the most widely distributed lager brand (AC Nielsen).

"This makes it an absolute must stock-brand for many thousands of free trade accounts that are free to choose their range," said Tudor.

Interbrew UK also plans a range of incentives for outlets taking on the brand and some will be invited to participate in the Stella Artois Quality Programme to ensure that standards remain high.

At the same time, the company is shortening its new account opening process to speed up the time it takes to get draught Stella Artois installed.