When the financial crisis hit in the United States, it also was a big blow to one particular Dutch brewery that pretty much only made one beer. Heineken’s sales went down for a couple of years and its U.S President, Don Blaustein, left in August of 2009 “saying he had a different view over how to expand Heineken in the U.S. during the recession,” as Bloomberg recalls.
We’ll never know if Blaustein’s ideas would have worked given more time, but the new guy, Dolf van den Brink (one of Fortune’s 40 Under 40 execs to watch this year), seems to be figuring it out just fine. “We weren’t in a good position in 2008, 2009,” he told the site. “For 45 years, we were a single-brand operation. We were set in our ways.”
His job, of course, has been to shake up those ways.
That task was helped when the brewer decided to expand its offerings and spent $7.4 billion to snag Fomento Economico Mexicano SAB’s brewing unit in 2010, which netted the company such beer brands as Dos Equis, Tecate, and Sol and a solid platform to increase its allure among acculturated Latinos, for one. To help boost the brewer elsewhere, the same taste for acquisition is evident in the company's zeal to acquire Tiger beer producer Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd., today filing its offer for the remaining APB shares.
Heineken still makes up about 42 percent of the company’s sales in America, which keeps Van den Brink plenty busy. (One beer that won't be coming any time soon to the US to woo Hispanic consumers: the tequila-tinged Desperados brand, which is prohibited because it mixes beer and spirits.)
“They’ve had a lot of false starts trying to get it right in the US,” said Ian Shackleton, an analyst at Nomura in London, Bloomberg reports. “We wondered if Van den Brink would be going in like Streetfighter with a machine gun to get things done. He does appear to have revitalized growth in the Heineken brand.”
Heineken is refreshing its brand with its taller, sleeker "star bottle" design to help re-engage consumers, as well as increasing both its advertising and its agency relationships in the US. That new bottle isn’t just helping to raise Heineken’s profile in America, where its market share has grown 3.2 percent in the last 12 months.
The bottle is creating interest worldwide as it rolls out in markets such as Nigeria, where it was released in tandem with the release of the new James Bond film, Skyfall — which once again features Heineken's iconic green beer bottle in the hands of Daniel Craig. Smooth.