The UK beer industry must move its focus away from price wars if it is to create a sustainable beer market, Interbrew warned on Friday as it released its UK 2002 Market Report.

"An over-reliance on pricing is threatening to stifle future development of the category," Interbrew UK said in a statement accompanying the report. "The only way to encourage greater consumption is to improve the drinking experience through a greater emphasis on quality."

Interbrew claimed that research conducted for its report showed that price deals on lager do not affect long-term shopping habits. Stewart Gilliland CEO of Interbrew UK said: "There is far too much focus on price: major brands should be able to deliver much more than a price proposition and we have to work at ways of achieving that.

"We have to go about developing a sustainable value for the beer category by focusing on the consumer. There is a need for brand owners to think more about building beer's relationship with key consumer occasions and to develop ways of making beer more relevant to those occasions."

The report goes on to say that beer faces a number of challenges because of its poor image, the fact that it is still linked with "sessioning" and the fact that it is still considered too informal and not special enough for some people.

Interbrew said it would like to see sales increases in the category through innovation, by building beer's established links with food, by developing new routes to market, such as garage forecourts and extended licensing hours.

Speaking to a group of trade press as the report was launched, Richard Evans, marketing director of Interbrew UK said that for its part the company would be focussing on the quality of the drinking experience.

This would include, he said, focussing on the growth potential of its leading brands as well as new product activity. Although this would also involve introducing brands from its wide portfolio of local brands from around the world, it would also mean the launch of completely new products. He would neither confirm or deny these may include RTDs.