Eckes, the German drinks producer has run into opposition over the proposed sale of its alcohol business from its own employees.

According to local union representatives some 150 Eckes workers demonstrated against the decision to put the alcohol arm up for sale at the company’s factory in Nieder-Olm, western Germany.

Eckes officials put the figure closer to 60-80 demonsrators.

Union officals said that selling the alcohol division is a mistake, as Eckes’ alcohol and juice making divisions complement each other.

A total of 765 employees work in the company's alcohol business. Eckes alcohol sales revenue, including alcohol duties, totalled €678m (US$670m) for 2001, some 50% of its total revenue.

The company plans to focus on its juice making business in the future.

Eckes announced that it is to pull out of the alcoholic drinks business earlier this month. The company said it expected to improve profitability by concentrating on its fruit juice and nectars business, with the spirits arena becoming increasingly competitive.

Both Allied Domecq and Pernod Ricard have already been linked as possible suitors.