Mexico/Netherlands: Heineken to face legal problems with tequila beer

Heineken might face legal problems for their tequila beer Desparados, which is fraudulently using the protected name of tequila on a product that contains none, according to Ramón González, director-general of the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT). "We cannot permit someone unscrupulously to affect tequila’s prestige ... Either they take the word tequila off it, or they put some tequila in," told González the Financial Times.

As the CRT explains, Tequila is a protected designation of origin (PDO), just like French Champagne or Bavarian Beer and may only be produced in Mexico. Moreover, an EU-Mexican accord from 1997 says that denominations protected in Mexico and used in the EU, “may only be used in the conditions foreseen in the legislation and norms of the United Mexican States.” The  Mexican rules foresee that the alcohol content from a prepared beverage made from tequila must be 25 per cent or 51 per cent, depending on the category and the label must bear the Tequila’s batch number and the number that identifies the tequila producer.

According to Michael Fuchs, Corporate & Financial Communication Manager at Heineken, Desperados “is a beer flavored with tequila. The flavoring we use contains tequila, which we buy in Mexico from one of the members of the CRT . . . We make sure the product fully complies with all regulations and labelling requirements,” says Fuchs. Desperados' listed ingredients are water, malted barley, glucose syrup, corn, sugar, aromatic compounds (75% Tequila), citric acid, and hop extract. The product contains 5.9% alcohol.

Tests carried out by Madrid’s Public Health Laboratory found that “this drink does not contain tequila”. Now, Heineken has the choice either to proof the truth, change labelling, modify the production process or to face legal actions from the CRT.

Desparados was launched in 1995 by Brasserie Fischer from Schiltigheim/France near Strabourg. One year later the brand became part of Heineken’s portfolio when the Dutch brewing group acquired the French brewer. Since closure of the original brewing site in 2009, Desperados is being produced by Heineken’s Brasserie de l'Espérance, which is also located in Schiltigheim. In February, Heineken announced to enlarge capacity at the Schiltigheim plant in order to support further innovation and diversification across its Heineken, Fischer, Edelweiss and Desperados brands (, 13.2.2017).

Today, Desperados is the world's first and leading tequila flavored beer and is sold in 85 markets across the world. Major markets are Spain, Germany, France and Poland. The product is not sold in Mexico. The brand sold last year 3.5 million hectoliters worth $1.2bn according to London-based IWSR group. This meant an increase both in value and volume by 17% compared to the year before.

The success has inspired prodicers around the world to create me-too products like tequila flavored beers Salitos by MBG International Brands from Paderborn/Germany, El Grande brewed by Brasserie Licorne/Karlsbräu in France and Amigos by Global Brands from Chesterfield/UK. There are also other mixes of spirit and beer in the market like Sputnik, the vodka flavored beer from  La Zaragonza brewery in Zaragoza/Spain, Fernetic, a beer flavored with Fernet Branca and brewed by Chicago’s Forbidden Root Brewery (, 13.1.2017) and Buddy's Bourbon Flavored Beer, which also comes from Global Brands/UK.

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