Why Heineken and AB InBev are promoting more responsible drinking

The beer industry is increasingly promoting moderate drinking and lower alcohol beer in a bid to boost loyalty and prove that it is living up to its pledge to improve responsible drinking.

New research from the UK’s chief medical officers claims any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer and that men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week. That has put pressure on booze brands to promote more responsible drinking.

Heineken launched a campaign on 13 January called ‘Moderate drinkers wanted’ that calls on women to curb men’s drinking. Meanwhile, AB InBev is planning to focus its marketing on lower alcohol and alcohol-free options in the UK this year, as it seeks to empower consumers to make smarter drinking choices.

It also plans to include nutrition information on its packaging so that people can better understand the impact of drinking on their health.

David Lette, Heineken’s premium brands director, says that promoting moderate consumption in its advertising makes it “more enjoyable” for audiences to watch, as well as making them want to share the content.

“In the long term, we do genuinely believe that people who use our products moderately have a more fun experience that they remember, and will come back to us regularly.”

David Lette, premium brands director, Heineken

This move by alcohol brands to promote more responsible behaviour is partly due to the Government’s 2011 ‘Responsibility Deal’. It set out a series of voluntary pledges by the food and drink industry designed to tackle big health issues such as alcohol abuse and obesity.

At the time, companies like AB InBev, which owns brands such as Corona, Budweiser and Stella Artois, voluntarily agreed to lower the amount of alcohol in their drinks and put responsible marketing at the heart of their businesses.

Adapting to changing drinking habits

It also comes as Brits’ consumption of alcoholic drinks declines. Sales have been falling since 2007, largely for health and financial reasons, according to Mintel.

Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, says Heineken’s campaign shows a desire to go after a more discerning drinker, in-keeping with trends in the market. “It is a brave strategy to say ‘drink less of our product’. But they want to attract a certain drinker; getting drunk, doesn’t fit in with that image.”


Despite the shift in drinking habits, lower and non alcoholic beers are still not all that popular. Mintel figures show that while value and volume sales are on the rise, the low alcohol beer retail market was worth just £25m in the UK last year – a drop in the ocean compared to the overall beer market, which is worth £18bn a year.

Focus on quality

A big problem is that many drinkers have negative perceptions of lower and non-alcoholic drinks. Mintel says men and those aged over 45 in particular are likely to describe them as being ‘bland’, ‘disappointing’ and ‘poor value for money’.

To counteract this criticism, beer brands are introducing low alcohol beer products with novelty flavours, highlighting what has been included rather than what hasn’t. For example, Foster’s Radler beer doesn’t focus on the fact it has low alcohol content, but that it’s cut with lemon and lime.

The key for all beer brands is to engender loyalty. Heineken hopes to that by promoting moderate drinking while AB InBev hopes a focus on lower alcohol variants will open up more occasions where its suitable to drink beer. Both must careful of quality, however.

“The more brands put weight behind their advertising and place the product in front of consumers, the more the market will grow. But brands need repeat purchases. If the quality doesn’t match up, customers will soon drift off,” says Wisson.

Hide Comments1 Show Comment
  • Ofentse Moses 18 Jan 2016 at 12:40 pm

    The Health Minister of South Africa has made a public announcement that the government is planning to curb alcohol advertising.What’s interesting about this issue is that premium brands like Three Ships Whiskey have changed their marketing strategies by partnering with Vusi Thembekwayo (Venture Capitalist) to support emerging entrepreneurs.Furthermore Glenlivet is supporting jazz artists through it’s campaign The Glenlivet Legacy Live.

    My main concern with the cutting off of alcohol advertising is:

    1. Many people are going to lose jobs.
    2. Business opportunities are going to be limited.

  • Post a comment

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