Rosie Davenport
Somerfield has defended its decision to slash the price of beer to a record low over Christmas, blaming brewers for chasing volume in the market.
The retailer hit back at criticism for pricing a 24-pack of Carlsberg at £8.99, adding that it was as keen as suppliers to build value in the sector.
Somerfield's beer buyer Andy Carling said: "We are always being criticised for this type of pricing activity but in my opinion criticism should be shared by the brewers.
The market is currently volume driven, with each brewer battling for market share and keen to take any opportunity irrespective of the effect on value and pricing. We are happy to work with the brewers to build value back into the category especially during the Christmas trading period." Carlsberg-Tetley said it was delighted with its Christmas sales, which it claimed increased its market share to 9.9% in the four weeks to the end of December, up 3.6% on the previous year.
A spokesman for the brewer said: "Retailers see our brands as capable of leading their Christmas initiatives. We are constantly finding ways to add value to the market, but the final pricing decision is taken by the retailer."
But rival firm Interbrew was more critical of the tactics.
Take home sales director Steve Kitching said: " You can't demonise promotions because they are part of the retail mix, but the balance is wrong at the moment."
Speaking ahead of the publication of ACNielsen's retail sales figures later this month, Kitching estimated the beer category achieved 4% volume growth in the festive bi-month with the value increase lagging behind at 2%.
He said price cutting was putting "unsustainable" pressures on the supply chain which he hoped would eventually "bring some sense" to the market.
However, signalling that discounted prices will continue throughout the year, Asda's marketing manager for wines, Gareth Roberts, said: "The market is getting more competitive. We are looking to sustain more everyday low pricing across our beers, wines and spirits department."