Deadline approaches for NFRN shops to redeem Booker vouchers

Surging demand for beer has led suppliers and wholesalers to take action including scrapping lines and introducing ordering caps in order to protect wider availability in shops. 

The pivot from on-trade to off-trade alcohol sales due to the closure of hospitality businesses has caused concern that suppliers and wholesalers may not be able to keep up with demand. 

Messages seen by betterRetailing reveal Budweiser Brewing Group has axed some popular convenience formats in order to protect wider availability. Production was halted on all 500ml cans across its Stella Artois, Budweiser, Bud Light and Beck’s brands at the end of October.

The move by the brewer to ‘optimise the portfolio’ saw major convenience wholesalers including Bestway list four packs of the 440ml cans more commonly found in the larger crate formats found in supermarkets. 

Explaining the changes, a spokesperson for the brewer told betterRetailing: “Budweiser Brewing Group has optimised its pack line-up, ceasing production of the 500ml can across its core range to focus on our 568ml and 440ml cans. Demand for the pint can format is growing, with value up +£37m in 2019 across the off-trade, while value sales for 500ml formats declined by £44m. Additionally, sales of the Stella Artois and Budweiser pint can formats generate £383 more yearly in the average convenience store compared to 500ml. This change will allow retailers to better cater to consumer demand, ultimately driving sales and footfall.”

In the wholesale channel, communication by Booker to shop owners seen by betterRetailing showed the wholesaler has again introduced purchasing restrictions for both cash and carry and symbol group customers on alcohol cases and other key lines, mirroring its actions during the initial lockdown. 

Cases of beers, cider and ready to drink cans were limited to 10 cases for Premier retailers and five cases for all other customers.

Mark Beckett, director of discount wholesaler SOS Wholesale claimed rising demand for beer, cider and ready to drink alcohol cans was also putting pressure on other categories, with deliveries of soft drinks ‘delayed’. Commenting on the rising demand for cans, he explained: “All in all, this has resulted in a global aluminium shortage! Even the best forecaster would have struggled to see this chain reaction.”