James Wilmore

Coors cools on support for minimum pricing

By: James Wilmore - 24 May 2012 10:19

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Amongst the usual gnashing of teeth over minimum pricing recently, it was interesting to note the slight shift in position of Molson Coors on the issue.

Previously the brewer has stood out from many of its drinks industry peers by supporting the idea, at least "in principle"

But after the announcement from the Scottish government it was planning a 50p minimum unit – 5p more than its bid two years ago – Coors released this statement: 

“We believe the proposed level of 50p per unit is out of proportion with the Scottish government’s 'targeted policy” commitment to address alcohol harm, however we welcome their commitment to review its impact.”       

It also noted that “around 70% of all beer prices would increase in price in the Scottish off-trade”. 

So what prompted this shift? Is it the shock that as it stands, the company could potentially take a hit on volume sales with a 50p minimum. But surely this would have been worked out before? Coors has also witnessed a form of minimum pricing in its home country, Canada. 

Or perhaps it was Coors' UK CEO and president, Mark Hunter's brief time as chairman of UK trade body, the British Beer & Pub Association, that changed minds?

The BBPA has always faced a major dilemma over its stance on minimum pricing, counting the likes of Diageo - vehemently opposed to the mechanism - among its membership. If minimum pricing is successful, the BBPA's great fear is that it may encourage the government to use duty to control price further. 

A number of its pub-owning members favour the policy, like Fuller's, but few speak publicly on the issue.

One pub company that has always backed minimum pricing, Greene King, left the BBPA in 2010, possibly due to the trade body's inability to support this position. 

Consumer group CAMRA, which boasts around 140,000 members, is also very much in favour of a floor unit price, as it thinks it will encourage drinkers back to the beleagured pub trade. 

Supporters of the move no doubt welcome the fact parts of the UK trade appears split on the issue, weakening the lobbying effort against it. 

Minimum pricing in Scotland appears to be a done deal, but there is still years of debate left over whether it will arrive in England and Wales. 

Whether Coors' shift will persuade others the idea is a bad one remains to be seen. 

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