Specialist import beers are moving up buyers’ shopping lists, with retailers such as Asda and Sainsbury seeing strong growth in this segment as consumers look for new and exciting products.
And Dutch brewers are in a good position to take advantage of this trend, with authenticity the name of the game.
Indeed, Dutch giant Heineken, whose eponymous brand is sold in more than 170 countries, is a founder member of trade group NoFibs (National Organisation for Imported Beers). This aims to educate consumers about the difference between genuinely imported beers and those produced in the UK under licence.
And The Netherlands’ biggest family-owned brewer, Bavaria, is also a vocal supporter of the initiative. Half of its beer is exported to more than 100 countries worldwide, including the UK. Sales director Mike Teague believes the specialist imported sector still offers great potential, adding that its La Trappe brand has experienced double-digit growth this year.
While brewed-at-source authenticity is adding interest to an increasingly commoditised sector, Dutch brewers have also turned to innovation to combat price pressure across mainstream and premium lagers. Bavaria, which has just carried out a series of nationwide samplings to allow more people to taste its brands, has launched Bavaria Premium in 330ml bottles made from an unbreakable, lightweight material so as to be ideal for picnics, festivals and concerts.
Heineken says innovation is at the heart of the brand. A spokeswoman says: “Earlier this year we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the 330ml keg-shaped can, an innovative aluminium design that has performed extremely well in the off-trade. This has differentiated Heineken from the competition and accounts for a large portion of growth in the off-trade.”
Heineken also recently converted all its beer to 5% abv. Customer marketing controller Chris Duffy says: “With a trend towards higher strength lager developing, Heineken switched from the 3.4% Cold Filtered previously available in the UK to the same premium 5% that is enjoyed throughout the rest of the world.”
The company has since begun an advertising campaign emphasising the premium nature of the beer and the fact it is brewed in horizontal standing vats for a better fermentation process.
Profits were hit last year by currency fluctuations but it did report an 8.1% growth in organic net profit and
sales were up 4.1% globally. Chairman Thony Ruys said a focus on efficiency, consumer-focused innovation and creative marketing delivered increased sales volumes and market share. Its interims are out next week (September 7).
Grolsch, the UK’s number six lager brand with sales up 14% in the year to May [ACNielsen], has taken to using the Grim Reaper in its TV advertising to highlight the slow brewing processs of the lager. The brand is constantly being refreshed to appeal to the consumer, says UK brand director Andy Cray. As well as its week-long concert in London, Grolsch Summer Set, it has built a barge at Canary Wharf in London to entertain customers in an effort to bring a bit of Dutch culture to the UK.
“We also recently introduced ‘easy to carry packs’ and have worked with our customers to ensure that shoppers are aware that the product is available in store. We also encouraged retailers to get behind our swing-top Grolsch bottles, which are imported from Holland,” Cray adds.