Heineken sales director Martin Porter

It was incredibly close: Heineken triumped by a single vote. But it’s unquestionably been a great year for Heineken, packed with innovation and strong sales, and proves that after a slow start, its integration of Scottish & Newcastle is now complete.

Picking up on the strong momentum it had built up in 2012, Heineken drove on its portfolio with strong performances from its core Foster’s and Strongbow brands. Delighted buyers praised the amount of new products and line extensions coming out of the brewing giant, singling out the “excellent” Strongbow Dark Fruits and the low alcohol Foster’s brand extension, Radler.

“Their new product development and category support during our recent range review has been exemplary,” said one buyer. “Heineken also added significant value in the process.”

According to Nielsen, new products contributed 52.2% to Heineken UK’s overall growth of £73m in 2013. And if the acid test for a new product launch is what happens in year two, there’s also Desperados, Heineken’s bottled lager/tequila hybrid, which was the fastest growing lager in the UK - despite zero promotion.

There was also praise for the way Heineken worked alongside buying teams, with one account manager paying tribute to its “collaborative support of joint business plans” while another said “Heineken have excelled in service levels and forecast collaboration.”

And it wasn’t just the major mults that were won over by Heineken’s work. One buyer praised the “great on pack promotions” and the “price-marked packs that Heineken has rolled out on established brands.”