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Craft “Pretty Special” in US, “A Great Opportunity” with “A Way to Go,” Global Heineken CFO Sez

Bright picture and bullish outlook on craft in the US and beyond shared by global Heineken CFO Laurence Debroux during fireside chat at Barclays Consumer Staples Conference yesterday. “The US craft space is pretty special,” she said, “because of the distribution system that enabled craft to grow to a level of volume that it definitely hasn’t reached in Europe.” Craft rekindled an interest in beer, in “how” and “where it’s produced.” That’s “a very healthy trend for the beer market,” in her view. “And I think if we bring back the interest into beer in a number of countries, it is largely thanks to that kind of innovation, and we owe it to craft,” she said. She acknowledged it “can be seen as a challenge sometimes.” But at Heineken, “we consider it as a great opportunity.” (Some of this article appeared in sister-pub INSIGHTS Express earlier today.)

Craft opportunity for larger global brewers like Heineken, beyond acquired brands, also includes “affordable craft or crafty line extensions of your main product,” Laurence said. There’s “a wide area of innovation that you see in that domain,” she explained, noting launch earlier this year of H41 in Europe, “an experiment around Heineken with wild yeast.” She ticked off plenty of examples of local brands within the Heineken fold, too. “All of these things individually might not have a huge volume, but they contribute to the conversation around beer,” she reminded, besides being “positioned as premium” and therefore bringing “a nice profitability.”

Of course, Heineken’s lead craft horse in US, Lagunitas, still growing at “high single digit” pace here, even “in that moment of a bit of a slowdown in the craft market.” She resisted “calling this a bubble,” but instead shared perspective of folks at Lagunitas: that there’s “this deflate from time to time” of the craft segment. “So if you really built a brand and you have people that are coming back to your brand and not just trying it once in a pub, then that’s where you’re able to go through those moments” of deflation, she said. Heineken is “happy” that during this time, Lagunitas continues “to interest consumers” and “have their faithful tribe, as they call it.” Yet “the more traditional lagers market in the US seems to be declining,” as it has been for some time, she noted. So Heineken sees “a market for interesting imports,” while “craft definitely still has a way to go.”

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2017
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue #: 78
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