Rosie Davenport
Heineken's new premium lager is receiving a lukewarm response from beer buyers as it tries to secure listings ahead of its February launch.
Despite a £24m marketing package for the brand, which will include two TV campaigns, retailers are unconvinced the new 5% abv product, replacing the outgoing Heineken Cold Filtered, can break into the competitive beer market.
Asda's beer buyer, Mark Spowart, said: "It's a good idea, but they have a very difficult task. They're not really making a lot of changes to the old Heineken Export which we delisted two years ago because it didn't sell. The new beer isn't as nice as Stella but it's better than Heineken Export."
A senior buyer for another major retailer currently in discussions with Heineken said the brewer was entertaining high price expectations for its revamped offering of up to £5 for a four pack.
He said: "In a market where Stella is frequently on promotion at £3.99, Heineken is being optimistic to say the least. I don't care how premium it is, if it is priced too high no one's going to buy it. I'm not sure it will pull through."
Sainsbury agreed that pricing could be an issue. The chain's beer buyer, Vernon Davis, said: "All beer brands say they want to be sold at a premium but saying it, meaning it and achieving it can be different matters.
"The challenge will be to quickly differentiate the product and its quality from the current Heineken."
Heineken marketing director Leslie Kendrigan Meredith said: "None of the buyers are being overtly confident because we haven't finished negotiations and they want to get the best price for their stores. We have a non-negotiable list price with varying degrees of discounts based on distribution and promotions in stores.
"Buyers thought we would be coming in as underdogs with a discounted proposition, so there could be some surprise."