Heineken USA STRs Down 2.7%

February 16, 2011

Heineken USA STRs Down 2.7%

Dear Client:

Not much mention of Heineken USA in yesterday’s analyst conference call, though their new Femsa business got plenty of play. Overall, the parent company’s revenues also grew 9.7% to over $16 billion, and organic profits were up nearly 9%.

None of these gains, however, translated to much recent traction in the U.S. The US got little play in yesterday’s analyst meeting on 2010 results, save for an admission of lower volumes here “due to depressed sales” in the overall market. HUSA (total portfolio) depletions were down 2.7% for the year, “in line with the declining market.”

HUSA’S WAY FORWARD. That’s largely all the chief said about the matter until the Q&A session. Jean-François replied that “the U.S. is really a U.S. problem,” as Heineken is considered “an aspirational brand” for the lower-middle classes who are currently downtrading from the “ubiquitous” brand because of an economic “crisis.” But things won’t always be thus. And so they’re “investing in equity” by putting more into “innovations”; “people on the street to support the on-trade channel”; and a “renewed, more focused approach of our key distributors in the U.S.” What about making Dos Equis the flagship brand here? He demurred.

Interestingly, the press release mentioned increased investments in “existing and new higher margin brands such as Dos Equis, Desperados and Strongbow” to gain traction in the challenging markets of Europe and the USA. Desperados, a tequila-flavored beer that competes with spirits, is not currently available in the U.S.; but rolling out in more European markets soon. No word about this side of the pond.

MORE GLOBALIZED APPROACH. Jean-François finished his short U.S. address by clarifying that ad spots might not be U.S. specific, even if some of them are shot by American agencies. This line is consistent with the brand’s overall promise to take a more globalized approach in their worldwide management tactics.

ALCOHOL SUPPLIERS SEND LETTER TO CONGRESS WARNING AGAINST CARE ACT

Here we go again. The Beer Institute and the Brewers Association, along with the Wine Institute, DISCUS, NABI, and Wine America, sent a letter to each member of the new 112th Congress presumably to get out ahead of a reintroduction of the Care Act. The letter says, in part, that the industry’s success depends on a “stable regulatory system in which Congress regulates interstate and foreign commerce, and states regulate the distribution and retail sales of alcohol beverages within their borders”, but that all of this is endangered by the Care Act, which “would have invited enactment of discriminatory state laws and protracted litigation.” The producers “anticipate its reintroduction this year and strongly oppose this misguided effort.” The letter goes on to say that the act would “favor one segment of an industry at the expense of other” and that Congress should not “spend valuable time wading into an intra-industry squabble and unraveling a successful regulatory structure.” Finally, they ask for the order, which is to “refrain from cosponsoring this special-interest legislation and join the numerous groups actively opposing it.”

BEER BRIEFS:

STONE’S GREG KOCK RELEASED A NEW VIDEO to help wholesalers educate restaurant and bar owners on the profitability of craft beer. The main one, “Craft Beer Profitability,” argues that a craft beer keg better optimizes the value of your tap tower real estate, where more craft handles equal more loyal and higher-spending customers. Numbers and epithets here: http://sellingcraftbeer.com

BREWPIC OF THE DAY. The American Red Cross mistakenly posted a tweet on Twitter last night that said, “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer… when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd”. The tweet was deleted, but Dogfish Head retweeted and started a huge spontaneous charitable giving campaign for the Red Cross in the process. All’s well that ends well.

Until tomorrow, Harry

“When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”
-William Wrigley

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