Heineken lager "back in black" in US as Light rebounds

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Heineken's namesake lager brand has returned to growth in the US for the first time in seven years, helped by a reboot of its lower-calorie version, the brewer's Americas president has said.

Heineken lager took a hit after 2008

Heineken lager took a hit after 2008

Heineken lager sales took a dent in the 2008 global recession and since then its brand team have been "struggling" to get it on track, according to Marc Busain. However, Busain said that "the team has fixed the basics and this year, in 2015, for the first time we were back in the black".

Heineken's US president, Roland den Elzen, attributed part of the turnaround to a revival of the 99-calorie Heineken Light, which was relaunched last year with a new formula and marketing campaign starring actor Neil Patrick Harris.

Den Elzen said the brand was "really going down double digits" but has climbed 15 percentage points in volumes since the reboot.

"We are finding the right tone of voice on the Heineken brand in commercials, but at the same time it's also about execution in the marketplace," den Elzen said. "Making sure that in the right point of sale we have the right packs at the right price points to make sure that we are picked up by consumers."

Busain, who was speaking at a Heineken seminar in New York last week, also said the company has set its sights on overtaking Constellation's Mexican beer portfolio in the US with its Dos Equis and Tecate brands.

He said Constellation has had a "fantastic performance" from the Modelo portfolio it acquired the US rights to in 2012, and that Heineken is now working to expand Dos Equis's and Tecate's footprint beyond its southern California and Texas strongholds.

"I'm a big believer that both Tecate and Dos Equis can grow, and can continue to grow by expanding their presence in US," Busain said. "I see no reason why we cannot outperform the Constellation brands with brands like Tecate and Dos Equis."

Constellation and Heineken will ramp up their rivalry in the US next year after both announced new acquisitions in the craft beer category. Last month, Heineken completed its acquisition of a 50% stake in Lagunitas Brewing Co while last week Constellation agreed a US$1bn payment for Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits.

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