Desperados Verde was first launched in France two years ago

Desperados Verde was first launched in France two years ago

Heineken has warned potential spirit beer competitors in the UK that they'd “better be good” if they want a slice of the fast-growing category.

The warning came as the Dutch brewer rolled out an extension to its Tequila-flavoured Desperados brand, which has boosted value sales by 70% in the past year. The 4.7% Desperados Verde, which was first released in France two years ago, will go on sale in the UK from next month, Heineken said yesterday (26 February).

It is described as a a premium lager flavoured with Tequila, mint and lime and is sweeter and has a lower abv than the original Desperados' 5.9%.

Speaking to just-drinks last night, Andrew Turner, category & trade marketing director at Heineken UK, said that he expected other brewers to enter the spirit beer category over the next year because of its success. However, while he said there is “large room for growth” in spirit beer, competing brands would have to prove themselves against market leader Desperados.

“Any brand coming in had better be good if they want to challenge what we have done with Desperados,” Turner said. “We have invested a lot in the brand, and it has been tested in the market place for many years.”

Desperados was first launched in France ten years ago, and Turner said new brands would not have have the same time to perfect their product.

“We are already ahead,” he said.

Heinken said the spirit beer category increased volume sales by 71% in the on-trade last year. The category is predicted to be worth GBP400m (US$6.7m) by 2016, with core consumers coming from the 18 to 24 age range. Other brands in the category include Global Brands' Amigos and Buddy's as well as SHS Drinks' Cuvana and Dead Crow.

Turner said Desperados Verde's UK roll-out is about “complementing and growing the (spirit beer) category”. 

“When you have a category in growth you should give it more space,” he said.

Heineken will invest GBP7m in marketing for the Desperados brand in 2014, with GBP1m earmarked for Verde.

The extension will be available in 33cl bottles and priced comparably to Desperados.

Yesteday, Heineken also announced the launch of a UK version of Old Mout Cider.