HEINEKEN 'Speerheads' creation of buoyant new spirit beers segment

1st November 2013

HEINEKEN, the UK’s leading cider and beer business, continues to drive growth within the Beer category with its cutting-edge, tequila-flavoured premium bottled lager; Desperados. As the UK’s fastest growing beer brand, Desperados has seen value sales increase by an unprecedented 475% YOY[1], delivering incremental sales for retailers and fuelling the development of a new Spirit Beers sub-category which HEINEKEN believes could be a £200m segment by 2016[2].

Dubbed ‘SPEERS’, the fast-emerging Spirit Beers segment is already worth over £26m[3], with value sales growing by 262% YOY[4]. At the forefront of this growth is Desperados, which has grown from £5m to being worth over £20m in less than a year, accounting for 75% of SPEERS segment value[5].

‘Speerheading’ growth

As the original tequila-flavoured beer, Desperados appeals to consumers looking for a unique taste experience and is successfully recruiting new shoppers into the Beer category, with 18-34 year olds accounting for over 70% of the brand’s drinkers[6]. The brand is also tapping into more up-tempo occasions compared to Total Lager, with drinkers preferring to consume the brand at social get-togethers or high energy late night occasions. As a result Desperados is delivering incremental value to the category, thanks to the premium price point the brand commands.

HEINEKEN took over UK distribution for the brand in early 2012 and has since invested in the brand to increase distribution, drive trial and cement the brand’s association with music. Activity has included OOH advertising, digital support, and experiential activity, with the brand present at some of the UK’s leading urban music festivals. Highlighting the brand’s contemporary character to 18-25 year old shoppers, the memorable sampling campaigns have included link ups with street illusionists, graffiti artists and break-dancers. As a result HEINEKEN have increased off-trade distribution for the brand from 3.4% in April 2012, to 75%.

Bringing the excitement back to beer

Martin Porter, Sales Director-Off Trade at HEINEKEN, comments: “We have seen an explosion of new fruit flavours within the Cider category and the emergence of the SPEERS segment within Beer and Lager, responds to consumer demand for new and exciting beer drinking experiences.

“The meteoric growth of Desperados has been integral to the health and development of the Speers category and the brand continues to drive growth and rising value sales. Desperados is a brand that shoppers actively seek out and, as such, the brand is not reliant on promotions to drive rate of sale. We are committed to nurturing the brand in a sustainable way and we will be launching a marketing programme in 2014 in order to drive trial and increase relevancy amongst the target audience to maintain the momentum of this new and exciting segment.”

Marketing support

Building on the success of Desperados, HEINEKEN will be up-weighting its support for Desperados next year with a £6m marketing campaign. Strengthening the brand’s association with festivals and the party occasion the new activity is set to drive further awareness and encourage trial amongst 18 – 25 year olds, in turn helping to fuel growth in the Speers segment.


[1] IRI MAT Off Trade 52we 17 Aug,13 MAT Value v.s 52we 18 Aug 12

[2] HEINEKEN Research 2013

[3] IRI Off Trade 52we 17 Aug 2013 MAT value of Desperados, Amigos, Curvana, Dead Crow, Buddy’s, Bachata

[4] IRI MAT Off Trade 52we 17 Aug,13 MAT Value v.s 52we 18 Aug 12

[5] IRI MAT Off Trade 52we 17 Aug,13 MAT Value v.s 52we 18 Aug 12

[6] Kantar Worldpanel Alcovision48 month data to March 2013 % of Alcohol Serves – Total Trade