According to industry rumours, brewer Heineken has launched a self-chilling beer can in selected UK regions. However, Heineken's UK marketing team told Datamonitor that the product may instead have been rolled out elsewhere in Europe, while Heineken International would not comment on any potential launch.

A self-chilling beer launch is likely soon, even if the latest rumours prove unfounded. Tempra, a specialist in self-cooling packaging, has an exclusive licensing deal with Heineken's packaging partner, Crown Cork & Seal. Tempra and CC&S have been developing and trialing a self-chilling beer can with an unnamed brewer in the UK for several years.

The companies piloted a can in 2002 that was the size of a 500ml beer can, but that only contained 330ml of beer. Tempra claimed that if trials were successful, a product would launch in 2002-03. The lack of a launch suggests that the technology was not ready for release. However, an extra three years' R&D may well have changed matters.

Self-chilling beer lines are already available. The CoolKeg, targeted at home entertaining occasions, contains around 20 litres of beer. Scottish & Newcastle's Fosters CoolKeg was withdrawn in 2004 because consumers felt it was unnecessarily expensive. However, CoolKegs have since been launched by Heineken in Austria and Carlsberg in Switzerland.

A self-chilling canned beer would have certain advantages over the CoolKeg. Individual beer-drinking occasions are more spontaneous than home entertaining occasions, making the instant refrigeration aspect more important. It would also be useful on camping trips, picnics and festivals, where refrigeration is unfeasible.

However, given the relatively low number of such beer consumption occasions that take place far away from a fridge, convenience store or bar, a self-chilling beer would be a niche product unless the price differential with regular beer were extremely low.