Asda wins group stage of the World Cup drinks price war

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The Independent Online

Asda, Britain's second-largest supermarket, has emerged as the biggest discounter of alcoholic drinks in the opening days of the football World Cup in South Africa.

On Tuesday, the day before England beat Slovenia to qualify for the last 16 in the tournament, the Wal-Mart-owned chain's prices on a wide range of brands were 7 per cent cheaper compared to identical products on 22 June 2009, according to the price comparison website mySupermarket.co.uk.

Tesco's prices were 2 per cent lower, while Sainsbury's and the online grocer Ocado's were 1 per cent down over the period.

The data shows the fierce battle raging between the UK's biggest grocers during the World Cup as they try to entice customers into their shops at a time when low food price inflation and cash-strapped customers have brought about a sharp slowdown in the underlying growth sales at Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's. Ocado, which is poised to launch a flotation, continues to deliver soaring sales online, though it is yet to make a pre-tax profit.

While prices at the grocers vary depending on promotional activity, which is often funded by the brewers and targeted around specific events, such as Wimbledon and the World Cup, some of the annual price differentials are staggering.

For example, Asda was selling a pack of eight bottles of Bulmers Original Cider for £8 on Tuesday – 41 per cent cheaper than the £13.48 in June 2009. A 660ml bottle of Stella Artois cost £1 on the same day, a third less than last year's price, although the price of some brands was actually higher.

A spokeswoman for Asda said: "We've been widening the price gap over other retailers since January, so the findings aren't surprising." She added that Asda took its responsibilities "seriously".

However, the cheap price of drink at supermarkets has been a running sore with health campaigners and the pubs trade, which have both called for curbs.

In May, Sir Terry Leahy, the chief executive of Tesco, said he supported any future discussions on a minimum price for alcohol.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Tesco said: "Tesco recognises the need for a debate on alcohol pricing among other measures to tackle excessive drinking."

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