Heineken's European beers to be introduced in UK

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Heineken has made its first foray into the premium speciality beer market with the launch of two of its European draught beers into the UK...

Heineken has made its first foray into the premium speciality beer market with the launch of two of its European draught beers into the UK on-trade.

Affligem Blonde, an abbey beer, and Wieckse Witte, a Dutch white beer, are to be introduced initially into London outlets before being rolled-out nationally later in the year.

The UK distribution and marketing of Affligem, six per cent ABV, and Wieckse Witte, five per cent ABV, has been entrusted to Turnkey Drinks, a company founded last year by John Emerson and Dick Humphries, who played a significant role in the UK brand development of Hoegaarden and Leffe in the 1990s.

The speciality beer market, spearheaded by Hoegaarden, is growing by 15 per cent year on year at a time when the overall beer sector is experiencing an annual decline of more than three per cent.

Mr Emerson said: "Hoegaarden has been extremely successful but it is only listed in a small percentage of outlets and we believe there is room for competitors and a huge opportunity for these brands.

"What both these products represent is innovation in the beer industry, which there has been precious little of in the last 20 years. Ice and dry beers failed because they didn't taste different. People want something different and that's why they are turning to other things apart from beer."

Turnkey will be targeting stylish venues and food-led outlets, while heavy emphasis will be placed on presentation and dispense, with the introduction of branded glassware and stylish fonts.

"Real beers are draught beers in consumers' eyes," said Mr Emerson. "Our strategy with Affligem and Wieckse Witte is to take them to the on-trade as draught beers in order to establish their credibility through faultless dispense, quality product and peerless presentation."

In addition to Heineken, there have been a number of brewers looking to meet the increasing consumer demand for speciality beers. Following its purchase of Kronenbourg last year, Scottish Courage recently announced the UK launch of Grimbergen Blonde, 6.7 per cent ABV, and Grimbergen Double, a dark beer with 6.5 per cent ABV.

Grimbergen is one of many brands within the company's European portfolio. Furthermore, Interbrew is considering a UK launch for its Bellevue brand to accompany Hoegaarden and Leffe.

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