Simon Mowbray
Interbrew has fired the latest salvo in its ongoing battle with the multiples over pricing, claiming that retailers are in danger of taking the beer market the "way of Germany".
In its latest annual market report, the brewer even claims that aggressive pricing could affect future funding for product innovation.
It comes as the price of a four-pack of Stella Artois this week hit a new low in The Grocer 33 basket (see p26), with Asda's Blackwood store in Wales selling four 440ml cans for £3.74.
The report comments: "The long-term danger is that the UK could go the way of Germany, where in some categories discounters control the business, so shoppers expect cheap deals all the time and manufacturers can no longer fund innovation to stimulate category development."
In a frank introduction to the report, UK and Ireland chief executive Stewart Gilliland even calls for a break in the struggle between brewers and retailers, calling on "leading figures" from the industry to work together to make "positive moves forward".
He adds: "We all need to make a concerted effort to work together rather than getting bogged down with in-fighting as has tended to be the case in the past."
However, Interbrew's report admits that value sales in the off-trade sector, including through the multiples, were up by 2% last year, peaking at over £2.4bn.
Allan Webb, general manager for beers, wines and spirits at Sainsbury, said: "The report has some very valid points such as driving the connection between food and beer, recruiting new drinkers and promoting the premium sector, all of which we are already doing.
"But a balanced promotional programme is still important and something we will continue to offer our shoppers."