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‘We’re less afraid of failure!’ Heineken exec on UK innovation

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By Ben Bouckley+

Last updated on 20-Aug-2014 at 16:30 GMT

Heineken UK marketing director Jacco van der Linden insists the company has changed its culture to be less afraid of failure and more realistic in its volume and value expectations for new brands.

As the UK’s market leader in cider and beer sales, Van der Linden (pictured below) says the company now delivers “more, faster and better innovations”.

“We have developed an innovation ambition and strategy based on consumers’ and shoppers’ fundamental motivations and needs; we have a greater focus on concept development; we’ve created a more disciplined innovation process and we concentrate on the details of perfect execution,” Van der Linden said.

‘If failure isn’t an option, success isn’t either’

“Most importantly, we have changed our culture to be less afraid of failure and clear about volume and value expectations in future years. It’s not that you plan to fail – but if failure isn’t an option, success isn’t either,” he added.

Van der Linden admits that mainstream cider and beer sales are under pressure in the UK and are less relevant to younger adults, while premiumization is a rising trend.

Consumers are looking for more sophisticated offerings, fitting increasing mixed gender social occasions which we have seen rise from 10% to 30% off all drinking occasions in just five years. Added to this is the wish for greater variety and less bitter flavors,” he said.

“Desperados and Bulmers are examples of how, even in a declining market, you can be successful when you combine these trends. With the new additions to our portfolio we hope to continue this trend.”

‘Our total innovation rate has skyrocketed’

After 2.5 years of effort, Heineken UK has two innovations it is particularly proud off, Van der Linden said, name-checking 2013 success Strongbow Dark Fruit and Bulmers brand innovations.

“Our total innovation rate has skyrocketed from 1.7% to 11.4% in 2013, equating to over 1 million hectoliters. More importantly, the revenue per hectoliter of those innovations is 30% higher than the portfolio average, driving incremental value for us and for our trade partners.”

Heineken UK has reorganized its marketing and trade marketing departments to improve its strength of innovation, he added; dedicated category development teams will work directly with retailers.

“The world is changing fast. As a big company we have to be more entrepreneurial, fast and lean. As the category leader we should be the experts, working closely together with our customers as a credible partner to grow the category,” Van der Linden said.

Click through our gallery to see six major launches from Heineken UK brands thus far in 2014.

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