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Heineken on its SA plans and lockdown impacts

Local Heineken MD, Gerrit van Loo, was recently interviewed on The Money Show. He talks to Bruce Whitfield on its continued investment in SA and surviving lockdown.

Heineken remains South Africa’s favourite beer brand according to the Sunday Times Top Brands survey. Its Sedibeng brewery outside Johannesburg produces local favourites like Amstel, Windhoek and, of course, Heineken.

Over and above its 75% stake in Sedibeng, Heineken SA has a 30% stake in Namibia Breweries; 100% of both the Soweto Gold Brewery and Stellenbrau Brewery; as well as a 49% stake in the Jack Black Brewing Company.

Bruce Whitfield interviewed Gerrit van Loo, MD of Heineken SA, to find out how the lockdown booze ban has affected the Amsterdam-based company’s expansion plans in South Africa.

“There’s no question that local investment will continue. We made that commitment to the president in our statement last year in November and we execute it!

We had to come finally to the situation where all the beers we are selling in South Africa are also produced in South Africa – that makes a lot of sense because of flexibility and because it is cheaper to produce it here.

During the hard lockdown the production and sale of beer was banned – did van Loo ever wonder if it was all worth it?

Heineken is a company that is family-owned and we are over 150 years old. We have survived a period like the Second World War etcetera, so a 16-week lockdown is financially terrible… but fortunately we have a very long-term view.

Indeed, the alcohol lockdown was severe but we also have to be cognisant of the fact that it looks relatively under control and we are happy to be able to trade again when we see that places in Europe are going into a second lockdown!

He’s hopeful that thanks to responsible drinking and behaviour by South Africans, Heineken will be able to continue trading.

Van Loo says plans to expand into KwaZulu-Natal are “in the cooler” for now.