Blog: Olly WehringDrinks Industry v UK Supermarkets - where are you?

Olly Wehring | 2 August 2006

When Scottish & Newcastle came out against the UK’s supermarkets earlier this week, how many of you rejoiced that, finally, someone was saying what you’d been thinking for a long time?

In my almost three years at just-drinks, any mention of UK supermarkets to an interviewee has been met by a knowing look and the blandest of bland comments. No-one, but no-one, dared go on the record with their true feelings on the matter.

In a submission to the UK’s Competition Commission - currently looking into the power of supermarkets - S&N said: “We view with concern the willingness of the major multiples to invest in relatively cheap beer and cider prices, to drive ‘footfall’ within this sector.

“We strongly believe that the sale of alcoholic drinks at low cost, used primarily to drive ‘footfall’ into stores, is not consistent with the promotion of responsible drinking.”

The response from the drinks industry has been silence. The supermarkets, however, have come out all guns blazing. A spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium laughed out S&N’s claims. The brewer had “no evidence” to back its claims, he told just-drinks.

“It’s a very competitive market and what retailers do is try to achieve the best possible price. They then pass those costs on to consumers - that’s what competition is.” He even went so far as to suggest that S&N’s claims could be a way for the brewer to achieve “better prices” from retailers when selling their products to supermarkets.

While inter-industry squabbling may open the back door for governmental interference, S&N should still be applauded for its stand. The influence wielded by this country’s supermarkets on drinks pricing has gone unchecked for too long.

I know a lot of you will be quietly cheering them on. But will any of you stand up and be counted?


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