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Companies must be allowed to make choices, and so must their customers

If you know for a fact that you won’t be able to buy Ribena if you shop at Tesco – for yourself or for your child – then shopping there might seem like an easy way of shopping healthily. Or maybe it’s just a simple PR move. McDonald’s salads were for some time the centerpiece of the company’s advertising, but were hardly less calorific than the burgers they were supposed to be a healthy alternative to.

Either way, as long as it’s just Tesco doing this, consumers can vote with their feet. My suspicion is that Tesco will lose money from doing this, and quietly reverse it after a few months, but the only way they can learn this sort of thing is by experimenting. As long as Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and plenty of other shops don’t follow suit, consumers will be only mildly inconvenienced.

The danger, though, is that the government uses this as a pretext to ban or tax sugary drinks across the board. This is a common sleight-of-hand used by the government, and we’ve seen seen it already this month: some firms pay their cleaners a living wage, so let’s make every firm pay all their workers a living wage.

Sam Bowman

8 comments to Companies must be allowed to make choices, and so must their customers

  • I recollect drinking quite a bit of Ribena as a kid, five or so decades ago. I haven’t felt particularly enthused about it since then, though I know my own kids drank quite a bit, especially in the summer months.

    Suddenly I want it: now! And lots!

    Best slurping

  • I don’t know a great deal about too much, but I know the supermarket business — marketing, advertising, operations, IT, merchandising, logistics, customer management — inside, outside, forwards and backwards.

    So as a former senior executive in retail grocery, allow me to say that what Tesco is doing is so stupid as to defy comprehension: the ultimate way that “feel-goody” policy is implemented against the wishes of the customer.

    Now, if Tesco had said, “Our per-store sales of Ribena amount to less than one bottle per week, and it actually costs us money to carry the stuff so we’re delisting [supermarket-speak for discontinuing] the product”, then nobody would turn a hair. This happens all the time.

    But if the above is not the case, and Tesco is in effect saying, “We’re telling you what and what not to consume”, then they deserve all the business that leaves them for another store. (It’s not like Tesco’s enjoying great sales performance, by the the way. They’re tanking.) What’s next? “We’re not going to carry butter / salt / lard / [insert eeeevil product of choice] because we know what’s good for you (unspoken: better than you do].”

    And if this report is correct, Tesco is cocking up BIG TIME. Idiots.

  • Fraser Orr

    Funny, maybe it is distance and bad judgement, but I always though of Ribena as a healthy food, you know, with fruit and stuff. I haven’t drunk it for years, and I agree that it is Tesco’s call, but if they decide to ban Irn Bru then I think it would be time for William Wallace to rise again. Now that would be a true cause for Scottish Independence.

  • JohnK


    As you say, Tesco’s management has been poor for some years. This strikes me as a panicky measure to gain brownie points from the sort of right on people who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Tesco, a bit like David Cameron’s endorsement of gay marriage. If Tesco had stores in Venezuela they would probably be delisting toilet paper too in the hope of a pat on the head from some commissar.

    Gutless fucks.

  • Paul Marks

    I agree with Sam Bowman – put those words up on the wall.

    But, please note, in this quotation he does not use any of the language (about “Social Justice” and so on)that drives old reactionaries like me up-the-wall.

  • David

    There are artificial sweeteners in sugar free Ribena. They make me quite ill.
    Wonder if I have a discrimination case against Tesco?

  • Watchman

    If they want to do this then fine, but if they want to publicise this then they are idiots. Basically if you have a weekly shopping list that contains a number of things widely available, and ribena is one of these, then there is no problem changing your provider (where competition exists).

    Incidentally, is this a stores-only thing or does it involve Tesco’s online operation, which does have a virtual monopoly in many places?

  • Runcie Balspune

    This is a bit misleading, the ban applies only to fun-sized, full-sugar versions. The reduced-sugar versions and larger bottles are still being sold. If this is the case wont people buy the big bottles instead, and would that effectively save Tesco money if their stock catalogue is reduced, are they just using this as an excuse?