Heinz has become the latest major supplier to alter distribution to independent retail sites following pressure to cope with demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wholesalers told betterRetailing Heinz had left them with short supply, while others claimed they had faced pressure to purchase more stock than usual.

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One wholesaler said: “If you look at everything that’s happening right now, packaged grocery is one of our worst hit departments for availability. Heinz is short delivering us and we need groceries. We’ll do what we need to do to ensure availability, but they’re just letting people down.”

One independent retailer, who asked not to be named, claimed the supplier is prioritising its deliveries to larger retailers. They said: “Availability of Heinz has been poor for me, but I’ve seen some bigger stores get pallets of baked beans. It’s really unfair.”

Another wholesale source added they had faced pressure to buy more stock than usual from Heinz.

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“They’re certainly not making life easier for us, but they’re not alone because demand is going ballistic and every supplier is altering their allocation.

“The customer service hasn’t been great. It’s been really difficult to get a hold of them.”

A major symbol group boss added the supplier was consolidating its production and focusing on its “major lines”.

Heinz UK and Ireland sales director Ross Warnes said: “As a result of the huge surge in demand for Heinz Sauces, Beanz, Soups and Pasta and the ongoing challenges of maintaining supply across all parts of the trade, we have had to take the decision to concentrate our manufacturing on our most popular varieties, which continue to be available to independent wholesale customers.

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“These can be run at maximum speed and efficiency by minimising line changes for short runs. Unfortunately, this means that lower volume sellers will no longer be available for a few weeks as we replenish retailers and wholesalers with our most popular Heinz varieties and provide stock for care packages to be distributed to the elderly and vulnerable, as well as deliver on our charitable commitments.

“We are working very hard to ensure our complete range is fully available as soon as we can.”

The supply issue comes as Warburtons had suspended deliveries to smaller independent stores without any prior warning. Mars Wrigley also has 24 of its top lines temporarily unavailable due to a mechanical breakdown at one of its factories.

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