Bond's lager switch stirs Heineken

Daniel CraigHeineken saw a surge in volumes of its flagship beer last year as the world's most famous fictional spy got a taste for its lager.

The Dutch group, whose products also include Fosters, Newcastle Brown Ale and John Smith's, said like-for-like volumes of Heineken grew 3.7% in Western Europe after James Bond actor Daniel Craig swapped his vodka martini for a bottle of Heineken.

The partnership with the makers of Skyfall and a deal to be the official lager supplier at the London Olympics helped overall Heineken volumes rise 5.3% in 2012.

The group said its beer brands gained market share in the UK, France, Ireland and Belgium, but overall beer volumes in its Western European business still declined 2% as people spent less in pubs and clubs.

The brewer also reported less of a thirst for its cider Strongbow, with a decline in the UK market pushing overall volumes down 3%. But the group said it launched new Strongbow packaging and a Strongbow pear cider last year.

Underlying sales in its Western European business fell 0.1%, but across the group revenues were up 3.9% to 18.4 billion euros (£16 billion), as it launched brands Desperados, Strongbow Gold and Sol into new markets.

Heineken said it expected overall group volumes and revenues to continue to grow in 2013.

Chief executive Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said: "The higher growth regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific are expected to more than offset volume weakness in European markets affected by continued economic uncertainty and government-led austerity measures."

Despite this, he said the group would continue to seek opportunities in Europe.

Profits before exceptional items rose 1.6% to 1.7 billion euros (£1.5 billion) on a like-for-like basis last year as it reported cost savings of 196 million euros (£168 million).
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