C-store operators have given a frosty reception to Coca-Cola Enterprises’ plans to replace its top selling 2-litre bottle with a new 1.75-litre bottle in the convenience channel.

One c-store MD branded the move unfair on the grounds that the main supermarkets would still stock 2-litre bottle in their c-stores. The 2-litre bottles were also generally heavily promoted in supermarkets on deals such as two-for-£2, he added.

“There is a danger this will create a false sense that we are significantly more expensive than the supermarkets because shoppers will be able to get better deals on bigger packs than we are offering,” he said.

Another MD of a leading convenience chain said: “We often slam suppliers for never doing anything for our sector so it is good that Coke is looking to try something. But this doesn’t solve the problem of 2-litre bottles in the multiples.”

The 2-litre format is currently available in c-stores in both price-marked and standard bottles. The price-marked bottles retail at £1.99, while CCE advises retailers to index the non-price-marked format against their competitors. The new 1.75l bottle will have a £1.79 price mark. It will also come in a non-price-marked format.

This week, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco were selling 2-litre bottles of Coke for £1.98 or two-for-£3.50.

CCE defended its strategy, set to roll out in the spring. “This was about developing a product that differentiates the convenience channel,” said CCE sales and customer development director Darren Goldney. “This is something that works for everyone - the supplier, wholesaler, retailer and consumer - and will get the brand moving in convenience again.”

He added that retailers were concerned at the prospect of the 2-litre SKU rising above £2 - as that had already happened in some stores.

While some c-store operators opposed the move, others were more sanguine. One MD said: “The price point and margin structure are good, so I guess we will suck it and see.”