A leading wholesaler has accused Heinz UK of favouring big supermarket chains by cutting off supplies of HP Sauce to independents to ensure stores owned by the multiples don't run out. Parfetts Cash & Carry said it had not had proper access to HP Sauce since March - when Heinz moved production of the product from the UK to the Netherlands. MD Steve Parfett said since the move Heinz had experienced major supply problems. But he believed major supermarkets were suffering no availability problems because Heinz was favouring its bigger customers at the expense of smaller ones. "It is galling to think that during this entire period there appears to be no problem at the multiples," said Parfett. "Suppliers have so much more to lose by upsetting a multiple than a wholesaler like us." Parfetts' claims were backed up by a source at a large national wholesaler, who asked to remain unnamed. He said the HP Sauce supply problems had been an "unmitigated disaster", with hardly any product getting through to the company's depots for months. Parfett said he planned to tell the Competition Commission about the matter. "I have been submitting evidence of this sort of thing throughout the length of the inquiry - and it is not just Heinz," he said. "But I definitely feel this is evidence of a waterbed effect." The waterbed effect is the theory that supermarket power over suppliers means smaller operators lose out on pricing and service levels. Parfett said he believed the problems were linked to the closure by Heinz of the HP plant in Birmingham and the move of production to the Netherlands. This was denied by Heinz, which said the move had gone exactly as planned. Supply problems had arisen due to unusual weather and promotional activity. "The warm weather earlier in the year meant that the normal seasonal increase in demand for some sauces started earlier than usual," said Heinz UK vice president sales John Hans. "At the same time a number of our successful campaigns have added considerably to the demand for some of our most popular sauces. Unfortunately, the high sales during this period have meant our usual stocks have been lower than normal in some instances." Heinz wanted to apologise for any inconvenience, he said. "We would like to reassure our independent trade partners that we are working around the clock to ensure stores are fully stocked as soon as possible." But Parfett remained unconvinced. Even though he headed a company with annual sales of £234m, he had to deal with Heinz through a telesales operator, he claimed. "Heinz no longer considers representation to the independent trade important," he said. "We have lost sales amounting to full trunker quantities of HP sauce in one depot alone."