Wetherspoon's beer price cuts signal 'a race to the bottom', say brewers

11 September 2019 by
Wetherspoon's beer price cuts signal 'a race to the bottom', say brewers

JD Wetherspoon's cuts to beer prices signal "a race to the bottom", according to the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).

The pub company announced last week that it was reducing the cost of a pint of real ale by an average of 20p, with more than 600 pubs serving a pint of Ruddles (brewed by Greene King) for £1.69.

A further 160 pubs will be offering a pint for £1.59 or less, including 36 pubs that will be serving a pint for £1.39.

SIBA chief executive James Calder wrote an open letter to Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin which he described the move as a "significant concern" for independent craft brewers.

"Beer sold this cheaply has to be made cheaply. The beer my members make is a quality premium product and should be treated as one," he wrote.

"Selling a pint of beer for as low as £1.39 may appeal to consumers but it doesn't support independent craft brewers who fear further downward pressure on price. This combined with inevitable inflationary increases in all their costs. Our research shows that most brewers operate on very low profit margins and many struggle to survive in a very competitive market."

Calder said that while SIBA does not take a political view on Brexit, it has helped its members to prepare for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

"But moves like this signal a race to the bottom to the brewers that supply your pubs," he said, requesting a meeting to discuss beer pricing. "Whilst ensuring value to the consumer, I would strongly urge you to commit to pay brewers a fair price for the beer they make."

Martin has responded to Calder in a letter seen by The Caterer, which said that the company does not believe its Ruddles initiative will have an adverse effect.

"We feel confident that volumes of your members' beers will not be affected and we will not be asking them for any reductions in price – indeed, we have not asked Greene King, the supplier of Ruddles, for a reduction either."

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