Heineken has struck a deal to handle Budweiser in Colombia.

The Dutch brewing giant said today (9 February) that it would take charge of the import, distribution and marketing rights for Budweiser in the South American country.

Anheuser-Busch launched Budweiser in Colombia last year with an import agreement with local retailer Exito.

The Heineken brand, however, has been present in Colombia for over two decades. Heineken set up a sales office in the country in 2005.

Esteban Amoia, South American marketing manager for Anheuser-Busch's international arm, said Heineken's experience of the Colombian beer market would boost Budweiser's presence.

"Budweiser has exceeded expectations in Colombia since last year's launch," Amoia said. "Heineken has extensive experience and a solid distribution network, which will provide Budweiser with a strong presence in restaurants and bars, as well as in the many family-owned retail outlets."

Nevertheless, SABMiller remains the dominant brewer in Colombia through its Bavaria arm and local brews account for the vast majority of beer consumed in the country.

However, Benjamin Bartley, Heineken's country manager in Colombia, said demand for premium international beers is increasing "steadily". He added: "Our distribution and marketing efforts will strengthen Budweiser's role as a key player in the category."

Neither Heineken nor Anheuser-Busch disclosed figures on the size of the imported beer category in Colombia but just-drinks understands that Budweiser sales are believed to have amounted to 10,000 hectolitres in Colombia last year.

Amoia and Hartley could not be reached for further comment as just-drinks went to press.

Heineken and A-B have teamed up in a number of markets around the world. Heineken brews Budweiser under licence in Panama, Italy and Russia and distributes Bud on the Canary Islands.