The Dutch group says it has learnt from the spirits industry

The Dutch group says it has learnt from the spirits industry

Heineken's CFO has praised innovation in the spirits industry for “showing us the way” to new products, including an alcohol-free radler aimed at stealing share from soft drinks.

In an analysts' conference call today (18 June), René Hooft Graafland said that the Dos Equis Radler 0.0%, launched this year, plays in the soft drinks category but is different “in look and feel”. “ If you’re grown up and stand with a can of Fanta that feels a bit childish, but if you stand with a Dos Equis Radler it is completely different,” he said.

He said inspiration for the new product came partly from the spirits category, which he admitted is ahead of the beer industry in innovation. “But as an industry and certainly as a company we are catching up very fast,” he said.

“Innovation and beer is a strange combination,” he added. “We thought we were successful because we had not changed the Heineken recipe since 1873. How can you innovate in a category that is about craftsmanship and tradition? But we are finding more ways to do it.”

Two years ago, respected analyst Trevor Stirling accused big beer firms of being "asleep at the wheel" for 20 years for ignoring consumer trends

Hooft Graafland, who was talking to analysts at a Deutsche Bank conference, said today that 6% of Heineken's sales last year came from products that were not in market three years ago. 

Last month, Heineken signalled its intent to merge its Nigerian subsidiaries Nigerian Breweries and Consolidated Breweries.