Heineken says it has found growth in France

Heineken says it has found growth in France

Heineken is betting on higher-margin brands in France as premium beers get set to overtake mainstream labels, the head of Heineken France has reportedly said. 

Premium beers in the country have increased from 30% of the market ten years ago to 49.5% last year, with growth expected to continue, Heineken France president Pascal Sabrié told Les Echos newspaper . “2012 will be the year when the French drink more premium beers than mainstream beers,” Sabrié said.

Heineken's French portfolio is priced 10% to 50% higher than the average beer price in the country, Les Echos reported.

However, despite a 2% overall decline in the French beer market due to economic and health concerns, Heineken increased sales, Sabrié said. Abbey beer Affligem posted a 28%-volume increase in 2011 year-on-year, he said.

“The French reduce their consumption of alcohol in reaction to the alcohol debate, but they are turning to fun products and are willing to pay a higher price for them," Sabrié said.

Desperados Red, which launched in France two years ago, and Desperados Fuego are two recent products that Sabrié said are earmarked for growth.

Last month, a Heineken spokesperson told just-drinks the brewer is putting  “more money, time and management attention” behind the Desperados brand.

Sabrié, who took on his role in December, also highlighted moves to boost France's home-draught sector. From close to zero sales four years ago, the sector now accounts for 10% of business in the country, Sabrié told Les Echos.