Saputo Dairy has temporarily axed the variants of major brands relied on by small shops to protect availability of ‘key’ lines sold in supermarkets.

Eight-case Clover PMP 500g and Utterly Butterly PMP 500g switched to non-PMP versions in cases of 24. Production was also halted on the 250g variants of Country Life and Utterly Butterly designed for smaller shops.

One retailer said the price leap from PMP to non-PMP made it look like local shops were “ripping off” customers. They explained: “Yes, we can’t get Utterly Butterly 500g in PMP or anything less than 24 in the case. It might be time to delist these products. But the bigger story and concern is the disparity in wholesale prices between PMP & non PMP stock. It is shocking and makes it look like independent stores are ripping off consumers.”

BetterRetailing analysed the pricing of the affected lines at a leading wholesaler. While the price-marked variant of Clover 500g featured a £2 recommended sale price, the non-pricemarked variant was priced at £2.20. The wholesale price increased from £1.78 to £1.91, meaning a store maintaining the £2 price point would see its margins fall to less than 5%.

Asked to comment on the move, a spokesperson for Saputo Dairy told betterRetailing: “Saputo Dairy UK remains totally committed to supporting the convenience sector. We continue to work hard with all our customers to ensure supply, and our manufacturing and distribution sites have done an outstanding job at maintaining a very high service level.

“Both Cheese and B&S categories saw year on year volume growth peaking at well over 20%. in the pre-lockdown and early lockdown periods of 2020. To maximise availability of product to all our customers during this period of peak demand we took the difficult decision to focus on our biggest selling lines, working with retailers across all channels to proactively rationalise range in order to ensure we could fulfil demand of core lines. This unfortunately meant temporarily deprioritising some smaller selling SKUs (for example larger packs & lighter variants). Where we had to temporarily cease producing a particular line we worked proactively with customers to offer a suitable alternative, be that an alternative case count, unit size or plain packs in lieu of price marked.

“As soon as viable however, we resumed supply of deprioritised SKUs and we have maintained full and consistent supply levels since. Specifically, we continued to supply Cathedral City 200g PMPs at all times throughout the lock-down period and all PMPs across our wider branded portfolio were brought back into full supply during Jun/ Jul. We continually review consumer price marks across our range to ensure they remain competitive, with consideration of pertinent market conditions. Wholesale pricing is entirely at the discretion of the wholesaler.”

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