White Plains, N.Y.-based HEINEKEN USA prides itself as being at the forefront of innovation: from new product development to the latest advertising trends. A common theme within the global company is progressiveness and this year, HEINEKEN USA did what it does best by creating two never-before-seen products, the BLADE and Home Tap.

BLADE is a fully-contained draft beer system, a way for smaller non-draft outlets to boost their beer profits, says Cormac McCarthy, project lead at HEINEKEN USA for BLADE. “BLADE guarantees brewery-fresh draft for 30 days and, with nearly 100 percent yield, ensures less waste. It fits on any countertop in a 12-by-18-inch area (including a drip tray) and requires less than five minutes for installation, he explains.

For consumers’ homes, the company released Home Tap, a sleek and stylish appliance that taps into urban consumers’ increasing desire to enjoy a premium draft beer experience in their own home or during office happy hour. “With the machine comes THE TORP, a brand new 2-liter keg which completes the system, enabling consumers to pour perfect quality, super-chilled beers,” he says.


The invention

In the wake of its research and development, HEINEKEN USA saw the opportunity to offer its consumers an innovative consumption experience. “In the U.S., we see a trend in the way consumers prefer to enjoy their beer on-premise: there is a clear preference for draft beer at the expense of bottled beer,” McCarthy says. “In fact, a recent online survey revealed that 71 percent of consumers prefer draft over bottles, a continuing shift to draft from earlier studies. With BLADE, we can now fulfill this preference in smaller, often ethnic, bars and restaurants.”

Introduced this past February, BLADE was created to target small bars and restaurants without a draft beer program, McCarthy says. It also helps accounts with only one or two taps looking to maximize profitability and remove the hassle of traditional draft beer systems, he adds.

To further expand its off-premise reach, HEINEKEN USA’s Home Tap was designed to capitalize on the dramatic increase in office happy hour occasions, McCarthy says. “The boom in the shared office concept has given rise to a demand for a quality, fresh draft experience, much like we’re seeing and addressing with BLADE in small bars and restaurants.”

At-home entertaining, particularly during sporting events, is increasing in popularity and Home Tap is a perfect solution, McCarthy adds.


The reaction

The introduction of HEINEKEN USA’s “grab-n-go” draft systems has paved the way for new on-premise marketing opportunities. “With BLADE, we’re going places that we’ve never gone before, like cabanas in Las Vegas, bringing premium draft beer to the pool party scene,” he adds.

“To penetrate these locations, and many others like them, we’re developing new communications to be relevant and motivating consumers during different consumption occasions,” he says. “These are experiences that HEINEKEN USA has not been involved with prior to BLADE and Home Tap.

“These consumers [mostly millennials] are not traditional consumers engaged in traditional experiences. We’re refining our message to better appeal to this market with what’s new and differentiated,” he continues.

Overall, the company has received positive feedback with their equipment innovations. “We’ve captured testimonials where consumers and the trade use words like ‘unique,’ ‘exciting,’ ‘innovative,’ ‘simple’ and ‘brilliant.’” McCarthy explains. “Clearly the reactions affirm that BLADE is easier than traditional draft systems, delivers quality and freshness, and makes the bar or restaurant feel important.”

However, some challenges have also arisen. “The route to market for these products is different than we’re used to,” McCarthy explains. “We’ve encountered various legal restrictions from [some] states that are not insurmountable, but have posed logistical challenges in managing fulfillment of the equipment with the beer.

“We are also assessing supply and demand to make sure to project and maintain appropriate inventory. Some accounts have been way above expectations, so we’re learning to find the right balance,” he adds.


The future

Although BLADE and Home Tap remain fairly new in the market, HEINEKEN USA plans to continue driving the equipment’s distribution. “We think that BLADE, in larger accounts, can access new areas that may not be currently producing sales and profits,” McCarthy says. “Because of its size and simplicity, [we think of] patios and parts of the bar where space is limited… these could be incremental profit zones.”

By the end of 2018, the company plans to expand its product portfolio by offering new brands for equipment pours. For example, BLADE is currently looking at adding Tiger Beer from Singapore in October and that by the end of the year, Home Tap will add Tiger Beer and Heineken Lager to its portfolio, McCarthy says.

Along with driving equipment sales, on the marketing side, each HEINEKEN USA brand offers events and promotions within the on-premise channel throughout the year, McCarthy notes. “… Consumers will be continuously engaged to optimize the on-premise drinking occasion and drive sales and profits for operators,” he says. BI