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Summer and autumn typically see the year’s biggest sales weeks for lager, beer and cider in the convenience and independent retail channel, prompted by sporting highlights like Test cricket and the imminent Rugby World Cup.

With a brand portfolio including Heineken, Amstel, Strongbow, Kronenbourg 1664, Birra Moretti and Old Mout, HEINEKEN UK are in a strong position to advise retailers and wholesalers on how to make the best of the seasonal opportunity. Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director for HEINEKEN UK, speaks to Wholesale Manager.

“Our wholesale and convenience customers are hugely important to us,” says Toby Lancaster, “as the sector tends to outperform the rest of the market. Five years ago, value and volume for premium products in wholesale was pretty minimal and premium brands weren’t given any real focus. Over recent years we have worked with wholesalers to grow this part of the category significantly and now everyone is reaping the rewards, with the vast majority of premium brands in significant growth.”

Toby Lancaster quotes Birra Moretti, growing +122%1, Heineken, up +22%1, Amstel +62%1 and Strongbow Dark Fruit, 15%1 as HEINEKEN UK brands performing strongly in wholesale and convenience. But it’s not only about encouraging consumers to trade up. HEINEKEN UK is increasingly involved with persuading people to look again at how they drink:

“Campaigns like ‘Drink Responsibly’ impact on consumers’ drinking habits and encourage them to be more conscious of their alcohol intake, drinking less or moving to alcohol-free beers and ciders. As the UK’s leading, independent voice of responsible drinking for many years, Drinkaware are an organisation we are immensely proud to support.”

In addition to HEINEKEN UK’s communications carrying the Drinkaware message, says Toby, the company has worked on groundbreaking initiatives such as ‘Drink Free Days’, encouraging people to rethink their alcohol consumption, including taking days off drinking to reduce the health risks. HEINEKEN UK show a similar dedication to helping wholesalers revisit the lager, beer and cider opportunity:

“In the past year, we have maintained our wholesale focus by continuing to educate wholesalers on the growth sectors and such measures as introducing a core low and no alcohol range and dedicated ‘Zero Zones.’

“We have also continued to offer merchandising advice for wholesalers, ensuring they are displaying their ranges correctly and in the most efficient manner, including displaying premium ranges at the end of aisles or as part of larger displays. We have also implemented bespoke activations indepot to help drive sales at the point of purchase, for example our Heineken UEFA Champions League promotion.”

HEINEKEN UK have been giving further sustained support to wholesale symbol and independent stores with the industry-leading Star Retailer scheme, providing market trend information and category advice at both wholesaler head office and retailer level, to ensure consistent and clear messaging. The Star Retailer rewards are spent in the wholesale channel and since the scheme launched, £2.5m of rewards have been passed back to wholesalers.

In other cider news, Toby Lancaster says the growing demand for more tropical tastes has seen Premium Flavoured Cider go from strength to strength. To build on this success, Toby advises that wholesalers should stock flavoured options such as Old Mout, which has enjoyed great success, currently sitting at +33% growth and worth +£7m to the off-trade1. In March 2019 HEINEKEN UK launched Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry, containing the same 4.0% ABV as other Old Mout variants, resulting in a refreshing cider bursting with tantalisingly tropical fruit flavour, a natural taste and no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.

As part of HEINEKEN UK’s commitment to growing alcohol-free sales, the company is also encouraging wholesalers to consider the No, Low and Gluten Free Beer category. This sector boomed last year, experiencing huge growth in the impulse channel (+58%1), driven by consumers looking to moderate their alcohol intake without compromising on taste. With a third of 18-24s now teetotal4 and 50% of alcohol drinkers limiting their consumption5, the UK is championing the trend, with no signs of this changing anytime soon.

Driving Low/No category growth is Heineken® 0.0, the fastest growing brand in the segment,6 up 236% in the last year7. HEINEKEN UK kickstarted 2019 with the brand’s biggest ever Dry January Campaign. HEINEKEN UK also recently launched Birra Moretti Zero in the off-trade, appealing to those who want alcohol-free beverages on meal led occasions.

A breadth of cider options is key for wholesalers to ensure retailers have a varied offering. Old Mout introduced Old Mout Alcohol-Free in a Berries & Cherries variant in April 2018, providing a perfect alternative for healthconscious shoppers.

A year on, Toby Lancaster brings the Greenpaper story up to date: “In January we announced the first results of our three-year strategy, revealing we have delivered over half the £670m opportunity identified in 2018.”

The results show that since January HEINEKEN UK have continued to see a strong and successful performance in the impulse channel, led by the Greenpaper drivers listed above. Beer & Cider is experiencing 5.2% growth, with Beer at 7% and Cider at 2%1.

Dipping into the details, starting with We’re Worth It, the premium category has seen a growth increase this year. Birra Moretti, for example, sits at 122% growth and Amstel sits at 62%1. The Sports and Seasons driver also continues to play an important role, says Tony Lancaster, and will go on doing so: “Summer is vital for wholesale and convenience, but this Autumn we also have key sporting occasions such as the Rugby World Cup and the start of the 2019/2020 football season. These events provide key occasions for wholesalers to create excitement online and in depot, again to remind retailers of these events.”

Heineken has enjoyed a long and rich heritage with rugby for over 20 years as a worldwide partner of the Rugby World Cup, title partner of the Heineken Champions Cup and a partner of a number of World Rugby Sevens tournaments. This year Heineken are continuing their partnership to help make everyone feel part of the Rugby World Cup, fans and non-fans alike, with dedicated fixtures and limitededition bottles.

Turning to the Great with Food driver, Toby says consumers are changing the way they consume and purchase beer and cider, shopping more frequently for smaller quantities of products. Within this, consumers are looking to spend more on the products they do purchase as the trend for premiumisation continues. Pack size should be a key consideration here for wholesalers, to ensure they are offering retailers the breadth of choice to cater for shopper demands. HEINEKEN UK offers many of its ciders and beers in larger sharing formats, individual bottles and sharing can packs which are ideal for barbeques and big nights in.

Beer, lager and cider adverts have long been at the heart of British culture, with HEINEKEN UK in the forefront, but Toby Lancaster insists HEINEKEN UK don’t intend to revisit their equally classic ‘Refreshes the parts…’ any time soon:

“The Heineken brand is in really good health, experiencing +28% growth in the impulse channel1, and showing no signs of slowing. With our very strong, established consumer positioning, we currently see no reason to revisit previous campaigns, preferring instead to focus on new and continued partnerships.”

HEINEKEN UK’s other brands are also major advertisers. Old Mout Cider launched a new through the line campaign in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to help protect half a million acres of habitat around the world. The brand’s first ever TV ad aired on 1st May, the beginning of a summerlong integrated campaign.

Another HEINEKEN UK brand, Birra Moretti is bringing millions of people together this summer in a campaign comprising a TV commercial, digital, trade activation, PR and festival activation. The Italian lager’s biggest campaign to date. Il Grande Invito, meaning ‘the big invitation’, sees millions of people encouraged to gather together around the table over great food and beer, to make time for what matters – family and friends. Il Grande Invito puts Birra Moretti at the forefront of convivial dining occasions, while reinforcing HEINEKEN UK’s Great with Food category from The Greenpaper.

Completing the round up, the new Amstel advert ‘Bridges on Bridges’ encourages people to come together and connect over a golden bier. Part of a £7million campaign across TV, cinema, video on demand and digital channels, reaching 83% of all adults in the UK, the campaign also involves in-store activations and PR.

We end our conversation with Toby Lancaster setting out how wholesalers can make the best of beer, ciders and lager sales in their depots:

“When merchandising their range, wholesalers should ensure premium options are displayed in prominent positions, either at the end of aisles or as part of larger displays, to remind retailers to stock up for their customers. Wholesalers should also ensure that they are allocating enough space to the most popular lines to avoid having to continually re-merchandise when managing retailers’ demands.

Wholesalers can maximise profits, Toby continues, by ensuring they are catering to retailers’ requirements over the seasons. Focussing their range on lighter refreshing drinks, such as cider, where sales peak during summer occasions, presents wholesalers with a great opportunity to capitalise on these additional sales. Get the basics right by offering the UK’s two biggest cider products, Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit, as well as offering more premium alternatives like Old Mout Cider and Bulmers to ensure breadth of range. When merchandising their range, wholesalers should ensure that premium options are displayed in prominent positions, either at the end of aisles or as part of larger displays, to remind retailers to stock up for their customers. Wholesalers should also ensure that they are allocating enough space to the most popular lines to avoid having to continually re-merchandise when managing retailers’ demands.

Finally, says Toby Lancaster, No and Low alcohol is certainly a trend that is here to stay, and one that wholesalers should be catering for. Educating retailers on the benefit of a core no and low alcohol range will help ensure they aren’t missing out on one of the fastest growing segments in the market and shoppers wanting to moderate their alcohol consumption.

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