The Big Food Group has been blasted by independent retailers - for charging consumers less for beer than them.
The group’s Iceland chain was this week selling 24 bottles of Stella Artois for £9.99 - up to £3.30 cheaper than in its Booker cash and carries.
Retailers, citing a clear conflict of interest, signalled their dismay at the revelation and threatened a boycott.
One independent retailer said: “The market is hard enough as it is without this. Booker has left us with no choice but to buy our beer from one of our rivals.”
Defending its position, a
spokesman said: “Booker operates a different promotional programme to Iceland within the Big Food Group. We have a market-leading Christmas package with a whole range of promotions including beer, all aimed at helping independent retailers compete successfully in the Christmas grocery market.”
Iceland’s deal was one of the best on offer this week, going below the £10 barrier amid growing concerns that prices would continue to deteriorate.
Steve Parfett, MD of wholesaler Parfett & Son, said: “This is the beginning rather than the end (of deep price cuts). At this stage it becomes a macho thing and logic goes out of the window. Even if brewers are not directly to blame, they are responsible for rewarding this kind of (discounting) behaviour in the past.”
Meanwhile, the major multiples have done little to allay fears as retailers including Safeway promised more competitive prices.
However, Somerfield’s beer buyer, Andy Carling, said: “If we do see Carling or Foster’s at £9.98, then we as a group of retailers have been foolish.
“There’s no doubt Stella will drop lower because it’s becoming a commodity premium brand.”
Rosie Davenport