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Heineken aims to whet African women’s appetite for beer

Siep Hiemstra, head of Heineken’s African operations, said beer consumption on the continent was still predominantly male, but the new drink, Radler, with a 2-3 percent alcohol content, could change women’s perceptions.

(Pic is of Radler recently launched in the UK by Heineken – it is inspired by a beer-based drink dating back to Austria in the 1920s when it was served to cyclists – ‘Radler’ in German – who wanted a low-alcoholic refreshing drink. The Radler category has been growing more recently in European countries such as Poland, Hungary and Austria. In Croatia, it accounts for 9.1 per cent of the total beer market.)

“For female drinkers this is the first step towards the beer category,” Hiemstra told Reuters. “If that is the case it will probably also allow them to enter the beer category and taste a nice Heineken.”

The Dutch brewer, which operates in 20 African countries and competes with SABMiller and Diageo, introduced Radler in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last month and plans to launch it elsewhere in Africa and Western Europe this summer, Hiemstra said.

Heineken is not alone in trying to tap the market for women drinkers. Danish brewer Carlsberg, for example, has the Eve brand of litchie-flavoured lower alcohol beer.

However, some beer makers have struggled to make inroads, with Molson Coors axing its lower-alcohol, fruity Animee brand in Britain a little over a year after launch.

The rising spending power of Africa’s middle classes has propelled the expansion of its beer market, which is forecast by some to grow 50 percent over the next ten years. By 2020, analysts at Plato Logic expect Africa to represent 7 percent of global beer sales, from around 6 percent now.

Hiemstra said Heineken, which has invested $2.2 billion in Africa since 2005, wants to focus on consumers trading up from home brews, bought by the majority of Africans, rather than competing with locally made beers.

Commercial brewers sell only one in five litres of beer on the continent but branded beers are growing in popularity.

“Our mission is to make sure that we are ready for people when they want to move on from beers made in home breweries,” Hiemstra said.

Markets such as Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia, where Heineken bought two breweries in 2011 and is constructing a third, have been key drivers of its growth on the continent, he added.

Heineken, which opened its first African brewery in what is now the DRC in 1923, is also looking to develop new sources of raw materials in order to meet its target of getting 60 percent of supplies locally by 2020, from around 50 percent now.

It is in the process of setting up a supply chain to improve barley production in Ethiopia and is exploring how it can source cassava from Nigeria, the world’s biggest producer of the tuber, Hiemstra said.

Source: Reuters

SA’s health minister not impressed

News of Heineken’s new beer has left a sour taste in SA Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi’s mouth.

Briefing the media shortly after delivering his budget vote in the National Assembly this week, SAPA reports that Motsoaledi said he was shocked at news that breweries were targeting the African market for expansion by 50% in the next decade.

“It’s chilling, you get very scared,” he said.

Motsoaledi said this posed a huge risk on the continent. In Africa alcohol use had been associated with road accidents, rapes, murders and diseases, which burdened the fiscus.

“It’s a big risk. Imagine we want to say we want to reduce alcohol intake and here they are telling us Africa has been targeted as a new market and that they are targeting women… and there’s a special beer for them by Heineken,” he said.

Motsoaledi said he would fight the move because it was an “attack on women”.

“When government is talking about this reduction in [alcohol] adverts, they say you are attacking the breweries, but they are attacking humanity,” he charged.

Motsoaledi said the alcohol industry was contributing R19bn to the South African economy, but dealing with the fallout of alcohol abuse was costing taxpayers R39bn.