What Makes a Beer an Import?

The issue of authentic beer imports recently made headlines, thanks to the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that claimed Beck’s was brewed in St. Louis, rather than Germany. Anheuser-Busch may issue refunds to consumers who purchased Beck’s believing it was a true import, rather than a domestically-brewed beer. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

Beck’s is far from the only beer to walk a fine line between import and export – Red Stripe, Foster’s and Killian’s Irish Red are often advertised as imports, but brewed domestically (and all indicate on the bottle that they are from the U.S.).

So why would a brewer imply that its product was an import, when it may have been brewed a few states away? I spoke to Ray Faust, Chief Sales Officer at Heineken USA to find out more. Heineken’s products are all true imports, coming into the U.S. from Europe and Mexico.

Heineken USA Imports the Heineken, Dos Equis and Tecate portfolios, as well as Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale, Strongbow Hard Cider, Sol, Indio, Carta Blanca and Bohemia. Sales for the company are up 0.2% to retailers and 1.1% to wholesalers, according to the most recent earnings release.

“Imported beer brands like Heineken are unique in that they embody the traditions and craftsmanship of their native country and are created with tried-and-tested techniques that lend to the distinct character of the brews,” Faust says. “As such, consumers continue to perceive imported brands as premium when compared to many domestic brands.”

Sales for large domestic brands are down overall, as craft upstarts continue to grow market share and dominate media coverage.

“We expect import share to continue to improve as more Millennial and multicultural consumers reach legal drinking age,” Faust says. “These consumers are more likely to equate cost with quality, and as they trade up, they’re more likely to shop the upscale import segment where quality, variety and image play a key role.”

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