I recently attended the Heineken USA National Distributor Conference in New Orleans, which brought together distributors from across the country to meet with company representatives, sample new products and view the latest marketing campaigns for Heineken’s seven U.S. brands.
The event began with the NDC Expo at the Roosevelt Hotel, which featured individual areas for Newcastle, Desperados, Tecate, Dos Equis, Strongbow, Amstel Light and, of course, Heineken. There were also presentation areas for taproom tools, path to purchase technology, and Heineken’s innovative on-premise draught system, BrewLock.
Wil Wheaton, the company’s new celebrity spokesman for Newcastle Brown Ale and a beer aficionado in his own right, was leading tastings of the brand’s beers, including the relatively new Scotch Ale. Also on hand was the UEFA Champions League soccer trophy, which made a grand entrance into the expo to celebrate Heineken’s renewed sponsorship with the league.
Celebrating Distributors, Innovation and Independence
Ray Faust, Heineken USA’s new Chief Sales Officer, led the following day’s event, where each brand in the portfolio revealed marketing and sales plans for 2015. Faust kicked things off by introducing Heineken International CEO Jean Francois van Boxmeer, who focused on innovation as a key priority for the global Heineken business and emphasized the company’s desire to remain family-owned.
“The Heineken family believes in the independence of this company. Period,” said Jean-Francois, addressing SABMiller’s two unsolicited offers to purchase the 150-year-old company. “I would add that management is in agreement with the family.”
Faust stressed that the company is continuing to diversify its portfolio, something it began in 2008 at a time when nearly two-thirds of the company’s U.S. sales were Heineken (the rest being Amstel Light).
Heineken USA President and CEO Dolf van den Brink stated that infighting among beer companies over public policy is “disheartening and self-defeating.” He added, “It’s time to unite against limits on commercial freedom or policies that upset the level playing field. We need to focus on what really matters — which is selling beer.”
The company stressed that it has bold plans focused on four brands in 2015: Heineken, Dos Equis, Tecate and Strongbow. All four will see increased marketing budgets and promotions this year, including a major partnership for Heineken with Major League Soccer.
In the on-premise market, Heineken’s BrewLock technology currently boasts more than 3,000 installations and has plans for aggressive growth this year. The system promises operators fresher beer, as well as 99 percent of the beer out of a keg (compared to 85 to 90 percent from a traditional system). BrewLock is currently available for Heineken and Newcastle Brown Ale.
In addition to handing out the annual Red Star Awards to Heineken’s top distributor partners, the company also took time to recognize Andrews Distributing Company of North Texas with the eighth annual 1864 Award for Responsibility.
The Dallas-based distributor co-branded a number of campaigns in the Dallas-Forth Worth area to promote safe rides home, as well as launching a partnership with Uber and offering free rides home during the holidays.
“We’re proud to work with partners that embrace [our] values and actively strive to put responsibility into action,” Faust said. “This year, Andrews Distributing Company of North Texas went above and beyond to make a difference in the communities they serve.”