The rationalisation of the premium bottled ale fixtures in the multiple grocers has begun and Shepherd Neame believes it is in a good position to capitalise on the changes. Sales director Mark McJennett said: "They needed a lot of brands to build the category in the beginning, but that job is done. Now they are concentrating on the key brands and leaving room for some of the small regionals." The Kent brewer is concentrating its efforts behind Bishop's Finger and Spitfire and it has pulled Master Brew out of the national off-trade market. It is also extending the pack variants. McJennett said: "The difference between the on and off-trades is now much narrower. Consumers are tending to drink the same products in the two markets. "We think more people would buy the beers in take home if they could find the right formats." He said the introduction of his brands into 275ml stubby glass bottles had gone better than he had anticipated with national listings in Tesco and Safeway. The 500ml bottles of the two brands will be available in three, eight and 12 packs. McJennett is trying to extend the pre-Christmas buying peak for the beers but one of the problems he faces is the pressure on prices "The category is not price sensitive and shoppers will not recognise the deal they are getting. We're not selling toilet rolls. We are about added value," he said. {{DRINKS }}