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The friendly traveler

With Onome Amawhe
Heineken premium beer is the international beer brand that has made its way around the world.

Alfred Heineken, Chairman/Chief Executive, Heineken N.V 1971-1989

The Dutch pale larger has been brewed by the Heineken family since 1864 when Adriaan Heineken convinced his mother that there would be fewer problems with alcoholism in Holland if the Dutch could be induced to drink beer instead of gin.

Because beer brewed in Holland was of such poor quality, he felt a personal obligation to produce a high quality beer. Adriaan Heineken’s mother bought him an Amsterdam brewery known as De Hooiberg (The Haystack) which had been established almost 300 years before. In 1882, Heineken was only 22 years old when he took control of the De Hooiberg, achieving so much success within four years that he was able to build a new larger brewery before closing the original facility. The business continued to grow rapidly.

In 1874, Adriaan purchased a Rotterdam brewery and added to his operation. Heineken incorporated his company as Heineken Bierbrouwerij Maatchappij N.V (Heineken Beer Brewing Company) in 1873. During this period, Heineken had started using a new cooling technique and gained the ability to brew year round at consistent quality level.

This made Heineken become one of the first breweries in the world to eliminate the brewers’ traditional dependence on seasonal ice. Heineken began to export just 12 years after the De Hooiberg purchase, with regular shipments to France.  Exporting beer to the United States soon began when Adriaan’s son, Henry, assumed control of the company in 1914. Travelling on the Dutch liner Nieuw Amsterdam to New York, he met Leo Van Munching, the liner’s bartender. Impressed by the bartender’s knowledge of beer, Heineken offered him a position as the company’s importer of Heineken beer in New York. The bartender quickly accepted and began distributing the beer to the finer restaurants, taverns and hotels in the New York area until prohibition forced him to stop in 1920.

After the repeal of the prohibition in 1933, Heineken was the first beer imported into the United States. World war ll once again brought importing to a temporary halt while Van Munching served in the U.S Navy.

When he returned in 1945, he formed Van Munching and Company, Inc, and established a nationwide distribution system to expand the beer’s market beyond the New York area.  Beginning in the 1940s, the U.S market became extremely important to Heineken, eventually becoming the beer’s largest market outside the Netherlands.

Through Van Munching’s distribution system, Heineken became the dominant beer import in most part of the United States. While many imports were available only in metropolitan areas or other limited geographical regions, by 1980s, Heineken was available in 70% of the national retail outlets handling alcoholic beverages.

Heineken beer also became the leading import in Japan, Canada, and Australia. In 1931, the company entered the first of many joint brewing ventures in countries to which it had previously exported.  That year, the Malayan Brewery was formed in Singapore in association with a local partner.
This was closely followed by the establishment of a brewery in Indonesia.
Heineken’s entry into Africa dates back to the early 1900s but operational activities would not commence till 1924.

The beer brand found its way into the Nigerian market in 1946 when Heineken Netherlands provided loan facility for the establishment of  the first of the five breweries in Nigeria. Since the founding of the IGANMU HOUSE Nigerian breweries In Lagos and other of its brewing plants (Aba Brewery,1957; Kaduna Brewery, 1963; Ibadan Brewery, 1982; Enugu Brewery, 2003, Heineken has been and is still rendering technical and management support to the brewing company. In December 2000, Heineken acquired majority shares in Nigerian breweries by converting its $62 Million loan to Nigerian Breweries to equity bringing the Dutch brewers stake in Nigerian Breweries from 43.3% to 52.4.

The convertible loan stock made open to NB’s shareholders was approved by the Annual General Shareholders Meeting of Nigerian Breweries in June 2000.

With a continent-wide production amounting to 1.6 million hectoliters (2007) Heineken ranks as the second largest beer brand in Africa with its availability  in 51 0f the 53 countries in Africa. Nigerian Breweries produces 5.7 million hectoliters of the beer brand and controls 56% of the Nigerian beer market with its flagship brands Star and Gulder taking the lead in the Nigerian beer market. The two beer brands are major competitors for the Heineken beer brand in Nigeria. Nevertheless, Heineken stands out as the pioneer of beer and a true global brand representing social standing: a premium beer you drink in the better establishments and hotels. In the late 1940s, Henry Heineken resigned from the executive board of the company, and was appointed delegate member of the company’s supervisory council.

Shortly after, he sold off family stake in the business and sends his son, Alfred Heineken; the man responsible for Heineken’s global success, to New York to learn about Van Munching’s marketing operations. While in New York, Alfred took advertising and business courses in the evenings and spent his days canvassing New York on foot with Munching’s sales staff. While learning in New York, he wrote his father a partly prophetic letter:

“I have my mind set on restoring the majority of the shares in Heineken back into the hands of the family. It is not my plan to become very rich but I think that it is a matter of pride that my children should inherit a stake in Heineken, like I did from you and as you did from your own father”. Upon return to Holland in 1948, Alfred Heineken secretly bought back his family’s stake in Heineken with borrowed money-acquiring the majority of the shares in the company.

This marked the beginning of a new era in the company’s strategy, setting out onto the world with a clear objective of developing his heritage into a global brand.  His flair for marketing was brought to the fore when he designed the famous green Heineken bottle and the logo with the red star and black banner bearing the brand name. He also came up with the idea to slightly tilt the e’s in the Heineken brand name to make them look “smiling and happy”.

Every single Heineken commercial throughout the world was approved by Mr. Heineken himself and his habit of vetoing most campaign ideas earned him the nickname ‘Dr. No’.  Alfred Heineken had been impressed with the changes in the U.S lifestyle brought about by electrical refrigerators and modern supermarkets, and he foresaw the eventual impact of modern conveniences on the Dutch way of life.

This made him prompt the company to implement marketing techniques that capitalized on these habits. Recognizing the importance of the take-home market, for instance, the company began selling beer in grocery stores displaying the Heineken brand. In addition, he began advertising the beer on radio. Prior to the time, advertising had been considered unnecessary because tavern owners were tied to specific breweries. In 1971, Alfred Heineken was appointed Chairman/ Chief Executive.  And in the 30-year period that he was at the helm of the company, he made Heineken beer a household name, turning the local Dutch beer into a billion dollar business.
The following year, the company changed its name from Heineken Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V to Heineken N.V. Heineken—

The brand that bears the founder’s family name is available in almost every country on the planet and is the world’s most valuable international premium beer. With the reputation of being one of the wealthiest men in the world, Alfred Heineken remained down to earth. If he was not in the office, he could be found in the old café hoppe in the center of Amsterdam sipping Heineken. One day while on vacation in Jamaica, he was strolling by the seaside and was surprised to see a number of beer bottles littering the beach.

This made him envision a “world beer bottle’ which would be imported for drinking and then kept for construction. He believed the square shaped “world beer bottle’ could be used as brick to help solve environmental pollution and housing shortages in developing countries. The Heineken management disagreed and rejected the ‘world beer bottle’ idea.

In 1983, the beer magnate and his chauffeur were kidnapped and chained to concrete cells for three weeks before Dutch police freed them. A ransom said to be more than $10 million dollars was paid. Afterwards, Mr. Heineken became protective of private life.

In 1989, he relinquished control of the brewing company but continued to play a role in its running. Alfred Heineken was born in Amsterdam on November 4th 1923. He died in the early evening of January 3rd 2002 surrounded by his family. His daughter Charlene De Cavalho took over the family’s controlling interest.


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