Trade fury at soft drink pricing rap

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Trade leaders have reacted angrily to remarks made by the government's consumer affairs minister linking soft drinks prices to drink-driving.Minister...

Trade leaders have reacted angrily to remarks made by the government's consumer affairs minister linking soft drinks prices to drink-driving.

Minister Kim Howells called for a review of current legislation after a report commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) found pubs were charging three times more than other retail outlets for non-alcoholic drinks. Howells said: "With Christmas approaching, I am concerned that high prices for soft drinks may undermine the government's campaigns against drink-driving."

The DTI research also criticised publicans for failing to display prices adequately.

Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association spokesman Tim Hampson said: "We accept that prices should be clearly displayed. But we are angry about some of Kim Howells' comments. To suggest that someone will drink five pints of beer and then get behind the wheel of a car just because the soft drinks were too expensive is crude and unhelpful."

Hampson added that soft drinks prices were higher in pubs because customers were paying for a "total experience". "You can sit in a pub with a soft drink and watch England versus Scotland live on television. Can supermarkets offer that?"

Sue Garfitt, trading director for Britvic brewers and licensed wholesale division, said: "Licensees should try offering 50 per cent more volume and increasing prices by just 25 per cent.

"This greatly improves value for money."

The pub trade has also been told to cut the price of a pint.

A report from City analyst firm Merrill Lynch said pubs had increased beer prices by above inflation for each of the last 20 years. "This is not sustainable," said the report.

It cited the example of JD Wetherspoon.

The pub company revealed an 18 per cent increase in sales in its core, established estate over the autumn.

It has introduced a national price list which charges £1.29 for a pint of Boddingtons compared to the average £1.71.

Total sales for the three months were up 48 per cent to £83.9million after expanding the estate by 86 to 355 over the past 12 months.

Related topics: Soft & Hot Drinks

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