U.S. brewing companies aren’t the only one concerned about beer’s image.
An article in the Los Angeles Times (free registration required) reveals that when Heineken opened a restaurant specializing in beer year on Paris’ Champs Elysees, it banned the kind of food typically found in German beer halls.
From the story:
Culture Biere offers cumin-flavored tortillas and pan-seared prawns in ginger. The restaurant opened in July with the ambitious aim of changing the image of beer in France.
Heineken, like other brewers, is trying to figure out how to arrest a decline in consumption of beer in many countries in Western Europe, as imbibers increasingly favor other kinds of alcoholic beverages.
Heineken does not expect Culture Biere to be profitable. Instead, the Dutch brewer sees its investment (it will not disclose how much money it has spent) in the Culture Biere brand as a marketing tool.
“If we defend the category, we defend our business,” said Richard Weissend, director general of Brasseries Heineken.
Many brewers are finding that they are several years behind their counterparts in the spirits business in terms of understanding drinkers and communicating with them. “Beer as an industry has been too inward-looking for too long,” said Richard Evans, vice president of marketing for InBev.
International brewers are trying different tactics. For instance:
– Danish brewer Carlsberg opened a brewery in Copenhagen, the Jacobsen brew house, to develop new types of beer, including seasonal and “experimental” brews. Only 1% of the brewer’s total sales are derived from these beers.
– InBev is targeting the Leffe brand at older drinker, a group it says has been neglected by the beer industry. “Sometimes the industry behaves as if people die or stop drinking when they hit 40,” Evans says.
– In contrast, Heineken believes that the best way of keeping customers loyal is to catch them before they turn 35. Consequently, it is focusing on marketing activities that resonate with young people.
You may not be interested in drinking Heineken or Leffe or other beers from this large brewing companies, but how well they fare in upgrading beer’s image will make a significant difference in what sort of beers are available to all of us.