Interbrew UK has warned the pub trade that excessive discounting is jeopardising beer's future in the on-trade.
As part of its 2002 Market Report, Interbrew claims that extreme reductions in the take-home sector are threatening to stifle the future development of the beer category in UK pubs and bars. Growing competition on the high street is forcing more licensees to resort to price cutting in an attempt to attract customers.
Richard Evans, marketing director at Interbrew, stressed the need for major brands to focus instead on improving the quality and image of beer.
"Pricing is important but there are two sides to the value equation - one side is price and the other is quality. We believe that in the beer category the balance has shifted too far one way. There needs to be a broader agenda than pricing if the beer category is to develop in the long term."
According to the Interbrew Market Report, only five per cent of pub-goers are influenced by price while 50 per cent of consumers say price is not as important as quality "if the quality is right".
The Market Report points to the growing opportunity to link beer with food and identifies speciality beers as a huge opportunity for growing and improving the quality of the beer category.
Mr Evans urged publicans to replace "me-too" standard and premium lager products with speciality beers.
"Speciality beers promote beer in a very different way - it's not about sessionability, they're drunk by women, perceived in a similar way to wine and the consumer is prepared to pay extra.
"The likes of Hoegaarden and Leffe are where premium lagers were 20 years ago and they're being built for the long term."
Mr Evans confirmed that the newly acquired Staropramen is one of many beers earmarked for Interbrew's speciality beer range. "We have a lot of brand activity planned. As well as new product development and the development of our existing brands, we will be introducing new brands that are popular in other parts of the world."
The report is currently available online at: www.interbrewmarketreport.co.uk.