Heineken acquires minority stake in hard seltzer STËLZ

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Heineken acquires minority stake in hard seltzer STËLZ

Related tags hard seltzer Heineken Beer seltzer

Heineken Netherlands has acquired a minority stake in hard seltzer STËLZ, as the brewing giant increases its focus on the ‘beyond beer’ category.

STËLZ is the Netherland’s #1 hard seltzer in supermarkets (Circana data), counting twenty- and thirty-somethings as its key audience. The brand produces a range of hard seltzers, as well as RTD cocktail classics and hard iced tea. Its flagship hard seltzer is a sparkling water with a 'hint of fruit aroma', low in calories, and 4.5% alcohol.

As a less mature category than the US, hard seltzer consumption in the Netherlands is growing and is expected to further increase within the ready-to-drink category from 13% in 2023 to about 18% in 2028.

The Netherlands: A shift in social drinking culture

STËLZ was founded by Milan Voet and Glenn Cornelisse in 2020: with the duo quitting their jobs and starting the brand without significant industry knowledge. Influencer Monica Geuze, marketer Ebbo Gevers Leuven and commercial strategists Piet-Hein Schnellen and Bart Meuter joined the team shortly after.

stelz co founders
Co-founders Glenn Cornelisse and Milan Voet

Co-founder Voet said the investment from Heineken will help the brand scale up – with the bonus that the Dutch brewing giant is located just around the corner (In Amsterdam, near Tweede Weteringplantsoen and Weteringschans, Heineken and STËLZ are ‘practically neighbors’).

“We started the STËLZ adventure on our own and quickly became market leaders,” said Voet.

STËLZ portfolio

  • Hard Seltzer: Raspberry, Mango, Passionfruit, Peach, Lime, and Grapefruit.
  • Mixed Classics: Spritz, Gin & Tonic, and Moscow Mule.
  • Hard Iced Tea: Lemon.

“With the advent of hard seltzer, you see a shift in social drinking culture. At festivals, clubs, student associations, and home gatherings, STËLZ hard seltzer has become a favorite drink.

"Of course, we are proud of this. At the same time, we are also realistic and see that there is much more potential. To unlock that potential, we need expertise and strength. And our big neighbor obviously has that.”

Heineken will help STËLZ focus on retail, hospitality and festival domains.

Heineken pushes beyond beer

For Heineken, the investment (details of which have not been disclosed) represents a strategic long-term investment in the ‘beyond beer’ segment. That segment covers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage propositions beyond the company's core beer sector: which ranges from flavored beer and ciders to RTDs, malt based drinks and soft drinks.

Last year, the company took a minority stake in singer songwriter Ellie Goulding’s RTD brand Served​ in the UK.

Brands in Heineken's 'beyond beer' portfolio globally include malt-based energy Zogg (launched in Nigeria and expanding into other African markets); Red Stripe’s launches into canned cocktails; Lagunitas’ non-alcoholic Hoppy Refresher, and Clash’d soft drink (in Brazil).

Maarten Schuurman, Managing Director of Heineken Netherlands, said: “It is admirable how STËLZ has secured a unique position with their hard seltzer in a short time. On one hand, it's about the product, but it’s especially about how STËLZ markets it in their own distinctive way. Direct and straightforward. With a keen sense of the current zeitgeist and the moments when you enjoy a hard seltzer. With spot-on communication for new generations.

“We can learn from that. In turn, we help STËLZ with the knowledge and expertise we have built over more than 150 years.”

stelz inset

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