Heineken has admitted it will review its UK advertising when its distribution contract with the Whitbread Beer Company, now owned by Interbrew, comes to an end.
The &£6m Heineken account is handled by Lowe Lintas & Partners which also handles advertising for Stella Artois, as well as Whitbread beer brands such as Whitbread Beer and Best Bitter and Flowers Original – all now owned by Interbrew.
Whitbread Plc, in a bid to honour its brewing contract with Heineken, has leased back one brewery from Interbrew to continue producing the beer. At the end of the existing licence agreement, Heineken says it will either set up its own brewing operation or look for another distributor when the contract ends.
Heineken refuses to specify the terms of the current contract, which analysts believe ends in 2002.
“How long the contract goes on is an issue that may be negotiated to happen earlier if that is agreed between Interbrew and Heineken to be in the best interest,” says Leslie Kendrigan, country director for Heineken in the UK.
“When the contract ends we will be reviewing all our UK arrangements and advertising will be a part of that.”
The company is also considering repositioning Heineken as a high-margin premium brand, a move which would place it in direct competition with Interbrew’s Stella, which is advertised under the “reassuringly expensive” tag. Lowe Lintas chief executive Paul Hammersley says: “I think it is far too early to speculate on anything If there is any competition between the brands that’s up to the companies to decide.”