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Behind the Star

I had the opportunity to go to a small event hosted by Heineken earlier this week where the head brewer Willem van Waesberghe was going to be speaking. It was also part of their new marketing campaign that is being referred to as "More Behind the Star." Although I'm a self described beer nerd and most of my family and friends rarely see me holding a mass-distributed beer, this was an invitation that I couldn't refuse especially knowing that the head brewer was going to be speaking. I also drank an ice cold Heineken from the bottle for the first time in years while I was there and I didn't hate it.

The first thing that I noticed which came to no surprise is that while Heineken is trying to stress many things about their beer in this campaign like the fact that it's available in 192 countries, at the end of the day they're building a brand. Their recent work on snapchat and presence at major music festivals make it hard to argue otherwise. Regardless of where their pushing their beers one of the biggest things being stressed in this campaign are the all natural ingredients used to make the beer. For one thing they use a full barley malt which is something most of the major American brewers can't say and they're doing their best to use hops that are sustainably grown. These were good things to hear until the MC went on to say that Heineken is proud to say that their beer is made with just three all natural ingredients, water, malted barley and yeast. Everyone nodded their heads to commend this massive conglomerate for using no artificial preservatives and only three ingredients in their product. I on the other hand raised my hand and asked why they are omitting the most crucial ingredients, yeast, from their campaign.

I was told to hold off on my answer and that Willem would address that when he spoke and he did but I still wasn't convinced. Their thought process is that in their beer, the yeast is filtered out and in the final product the consumers are drinking there is no yeast, it is just an agent in the process and not an ingredient. This seems fair if at least logical but Willem also went on to say that the lager yeast strain used by Heineken was one of the oldest strains on earth and one of the two "mother strains" in existence. What really bugged me was that they had an incredible marketing tool sitting in their brewery and for some reason they're choosing to ignore it. I have an odd feeling that it was something to do with the fact that a lot of the people who drink their beer have no idea that yeast plays a major role in making beer what it is and would likely be grossed out by hearing about it's involvement. I had a brief word with Willem and one of the senior ranking marketing managers after the talk was over and asked them a bit more about it but they seem keen on keeping it at just three ingredients despite the gold mine I believe they're sitting on.

I DID learn one really interesting thing while I was there though and it was of course related to one thing the big brewers have always been know for, packaging. But this innovation which never became wildly popular was more about recycling that it was about a can that looks cool or a label that changes color when it gets cold. In the 1960's they created bottles that when they were empty would be filled with sand and could be stacked so that they could be used in the foundations of new houses being built.

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