Retailers fear a new threat to £63m of sales from high ABV beer after a drinks industry watchdog put leading super-strength lager brands on a product blacklist.
The Portman Group said packaging of 500ml cans of Skol, Carlsberg Special Brew and Kestrel Premium breached alcohol responsibility rules by encouraging ‘immoderate consumption’.
The ruling follows a complaint from a homelessness charity and Portman is urging indies not to place orders on these products after 31 March.
Manufacturers fear it could be the “thin end of the wedge” to outlaw more products, including cider.
The ruling came as a debate was held in parliament to look at the legality of local bans on high strength alcohol. Skol and Special Brew producer Carlsberg UK said it was “disappointed” by the ruling, while Nigel McNally, managing director of Kestrel manufacturer Brookfield Drinks, added: “We have always said we would sign up to the pledge voluntarily if there was a level playing field. We unfortunately have yet to see it.”
All three brands feature in the top 20 bestselling beers in RN’s latest What to Stock, and, along with own label super strength lager, represent a combined £63m in annual sales to local stores, according to data from analyst EDFM.
We have always said we would sign up to the pledge voluntarily if there was a level playing field. We unfortunately have yet to see it
In response, Kay Patel of Global Food and Wine in Stratford, London, said: “If our competition is continuing to sell it, and it’s legal, I don’t see why we have to take it off our shelves.”
Nisa retailer Rav Garcha added: “We will take the Portman Group advice on board but we already sell these particular products responsibly and have had no problems with them.”
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Beer held a debate on Tuesday.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “The NFRN is opposed to the approaches taken by some councils, including reports by our members of heavy-handed tactics employed to force retailers to agree to remove certain products from their shelves.”