Heineken gives Light Beer a second chance

In view of sluggish sales and threatening competition of craft beers, Heineken decided to revive a product category, most experts already thought to be dead: Light Beer. In the test market Australia, Heineken launches these days a new product, called Heineken 3. The name could hint to the fact that the product is supposed to be the third international product of the Dutch brewer after  Heineken Premium Lager and Heineken Premium Light.

Heineken is proud to never have changed recipe for its Heineken Premium Lager which was first brewed in 1873. In 2005 a lighter version of the same beer, called Heineken Premium Light, was introduced in the U.S. market. The light version comes with only 3.3 ABV, 99 calories and 7 carbs compared to 5.0 ABV, 142 calories and 11 carbs of the original beer. Now comes Heineken 3.

The product is advertised as a mid-strength beer which gives the impression to fill the gap between the traditional and the light beers. Anyhow, the pure numbers of Heineken 3 show the characteristics of another light beer: 3.3% ABV, 86 calories per bottle and 5g carbs.

The product launch of Heineken 3 starts in Australia where Heineken Light was never introduced since the Dutch brewer entered the market in a joint venture with food and drinks group Lion in 2004. Heineken spends now  $6 million to make the product known in a high-impact nationwide Australian marketing campaign which also stands for Heineken’s  biggest ever marketing spending down-under. The low-calorie, lower-alcohol brand positioning is being marketed with the tagline “Have It All”.

According to Heineken, Heineken 3 has proven extremely popular in early consumer trials in Australia and the market for so called mid-strength beer has grown in recent years. “It’s tailored for Australia, but it is absolutely important for us globally,” says Heineken Lion Australia marketing manager Alessandro Manunta. If successful, Heineken 3 will be rolled out globally.

When launched in 2005 in the U.S. market, Heineken Premium Light also proved to be an instant success.  Sales, however, started to decline only 2 years after market entry and have ever since declined until in 2012 the product had only 440,000 barrels (525,000 hectoliters). In 2013 Heineken changed recipe. In order to provide the beer with a subtle floral note and to appeal to the growing craft beer community, Heineken used Cascade hops—a staple ingredient of many American craft beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Since then the product won several international awards, e.g. the World Beer Championships as best Lower Calorie lager in 2013 & 2014 and a Gold Medal at the 2015 European Beer Star Awards for best German Style Leichtbier.

It seems this gave Heineken enough courage to give Light Beer a second chance. Next to Australia, Heineken also launched Heineken Light in Ireland in May. Ireland was chosen as the first country for the European roll-out. The bottled beer is being imported from the Netherlands while the draught version of Heineken Light is brewed at Heineken's brewery in Cork. "We are proud for Ireland to be leading the charge in Europe and developing the campaign for the global roll-out. Heineken Light highlights the importance we place on innovation for our consumers, who are looking for more choice and variety in the beer category." emphasises Sharon Walsh, marketing director of Heineken Ireland.


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