Hangin’ with Heineken

I recently had the privilege of attending the HEINEKEN USA (HUSA) National Distributor Conference (NDC). I had been to the event last year, so other than the obvious reason of spending a couple of days in Phoenix in early February and potentially catching a Coyotes game, I kind of knew what to expect and was really looking forward to it.

Tuesday night provided an opportunity to mix and mingle with HUSA officials and their distributors, not to mention sample HUSA’s array of upscale imported products. While I am partial to Newcastle Brown Ale others I spoke with raved about HUSA’s newest brand, Strongbow Cider.

Also Tuesday night, amid much fanfare, the new Star Bottle from brand Heineken was introduced. The bottle was initially revealed in September in New York City and is now going nationwide. “The Star Bottle is a new way of how the consumer sees us,” said Scott Blazek, senior vice president of sales. He also said that after the Star Bottle launched in NYC’s on-premise market, sales have trended positively, up 4.5 percentage points to 1.5% in Q4.

The real message the Star Bottle is delivering, which is important to retailers, is that the Heineken brand is back and selling well.

On Wednesday, HUSA officials put their best feet forward providing marketing and promotional details for all of its brands. While all were impressive, the growth opportunity Strongbow presents, particularly for retailers, really impressed me.

In addition to each individual brand’s plans for the coming year, the other thing that stood out was HUSA’s dedication to growing its brands and promoting the beer industry as a whole.

HEINEKEN USA certainly did not disappoint. Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the hockey game. Hopefully next year HUSA’s NDC is in another city with a hockey team.

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