Stuart MacFarlane President, InBev UK & Ireland
Sir; I must take issue with the tone of your article on the performance of the Stella Artois family of brands ('Stella loses its throne', The Grocer, 5 April, p4). The headline is over the top because the brand is still far and away the number one take-home alcoholic drinks brand, and the story also misrepresents a number of points about the beer category.
As we stated in response to your original story, value is a better way to measure a brand's performance because volume can be influenced on a short-term basis by promotional tactics such as price-cutting. According to Nielsen, Stella Artois is sold at an average price of circa 40% more compared with Carlsberg.
It is easy to pick and choose sales statistics to prove a point, but you need to consider like-for-like statistics to properly compare performance. As Carlsberg has chosen to focus on volume, I will respond on that basis. Measuring Stella Artois against the company's premium lager, Carlsberg Export, it is way ahead with a 16.9% volume share - more than three times that of Carlsberg Export, which has a share of 4.9% according to the latest Nielsen figures.
In fact, Stella Artois is larger than Carlsberg Export and the next three premium lager brands put together in volume (and value) terms over all time periods, that is, measured from a four-week period up to an annual basis. Consumer research also shows seven out of 10 consumers would consider drinking Stella Artois in the future - the highest figure of any lager brand and some 10% ahead of its nearest competitor.
Forget cuts, get rid of plastic bags fullstop Richard Hines Food campaigner - Real Food Team, Friends of the Earth
Sir; It is good to hear supermarkets are finally cutting down on the number of plastic bags they use for online deliveries, but the time it has taken them to do so raises concerns about their commitment to green pledges ('Online retailers cut down on the bags', The Grocer, 5 April, p5).
The big supermarkets should take a real lead on carrier bag usage and get rid of free bags. Cutting down on plastic bags alone will not be enough if retailers want to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. They need to investigate the problems in their supply chains, from forests being felled to grow animal feed, to food wastage. Only by addressing this will they shake off the greenwash tag.
Government action is also going to be essential if the environmental impact of the industry is going to be reduced. Voluntary action will not result in the changes that are necessary and it will all happen too slowly.
Under counter move is too pricy for indies Colin Finch National president, National Federation of Retail Newsagents
Sir; NFRN members are conscientious retailers who support legislation that will have a positive impact on the health of the communities they serve. But we are concerned about security, counterfeiting and the cost of the government's proposals to move tobacco products under the counter ('Dawn will stub us out', The Grocer, 29 March, p4).
Current display cabinets can be locked securely, avoiding or making theft more difficult. They give customers the confidence that they are buying a legal product. Under-the-counter practices may encourage rogue retailers to trade in counterfeit tobacco. The cost of replacing current display cabinets and refurbishing space should also not be taken lightly, particularly for small and independent retailers who do not have access to large funds. The needs of small retailers may be overlooked, so we are ready to respond in any consultation and assist the government on well-rounded policies.
Cigarette proposals are unacceptable Name and address supplied
Sir; I am incensed by the government's proposals to force cigarettes under the counter ('Dawn will stub us out', The Grocer, 29 March, p4).
Just where is it all going to end? Is this some sort of government agenda to drive all CTNs, especially, out of business. This proposal is unacceptable. People who smoke have the right to see what they are purchasing and decide what products they lawfully wish to purchase.
It's time to stand up for our rights. What will be next, high-calorie chocolate bars or fizzy drinks? Perhaps all of these products should only be available on prescription, which of course will be from the supermarkets because most independent pharmacies have now closed. I will not put up with any more interference from do-good government.
To win in smoothies you must be unique Jon Walsh Managing director, new business, Nestlé UK
Sir; Innocent is right. To win in the juices and smoothies market you must be different, not a me-too product ('Nestlé teams up with Boost Juice Bars to take on Innocent', The Grocer, 5 April, p55).
This is why we have spent two years developing a product and a brand that is different and combines the freshness and fun of Boost Juice Bars smoothies with all-natural health "boosts". It is only in this way we can win new consumers into smoothies, which ultimately adds category value and benefits retailers.
With category penetration so low at 30%, there is plenty of opportunity for a product that adds a new dimension to the marketplace. Innocent has a successful proposition and will continue to do what it does very well. If we concentrate on delivering something new, we will drive growth not cannablise existing players, which benefits everyone.