Rosie Davenport
Beer buyers are confusing consumers with cluttered ale fixtures that fail to reflect the choice available to consumers, according to Scottish Courage.
The brewer is in the process of delisting a handful of formats, sending a clear message about which brands it believes should be on shelves.
From next year a number of ranges in the brewer's portfolio will lose their 24-pack SKUs, including Webster's, Kestrel and Tartan, to make more room for its bigger selling brands.
Scottish Courage Brands' MD, Keith Hogg, said: "We want to release some space for John Smith's. There are too many SKUs that have nothing to do with consumer choice because the fixture's a mess.
"We are a responsible supplier, there's not enough space, and someone needs to do something." Hogg hopes to have a pilot scheme in place with a multiple by Easter, in a bid to show how ales could be better managed.
He cited the Federation of Wholesale Distributors' beer planogram used by independents as a possible starting point because it allows for local choice and flexibility.
But buyers said Scottish Courage might encourage retailers to stock faster moving lager brands as more space became available. Safeway's head beer buyer, Glenn Payne, said: "Because the ale market is in slight decline there's a danger this will turn ale into a self-fulfiling prophesy. Some of the confusion is brewer-generated, for instance when brand's are duplicated such as John Smith's standard bitter and Extra Smooth."
Scottish Courage's strategy for next year involves bringing out a selection of speciality beers along with a mystery beer launch to kickstart a year of innovation.