Hansa Marzen Gold is not a replacement for Amstel, but will be a competitor

Lihle Z Mtshali

Lihle Z Mtshali

South African Breweries (SAB) this week launched a new premium beer in the wake of Dutch brewer Heineken recently terminating SAB's contract to produce, market, sell and distribute Amstel lager in South Africa.

Michael Farr, SAB's communications manager, denied that Hansa Marzen Gold was a replacement for Amstel, but said that it would be competing with Amstel for market share because both beers would fall in the same price range.

"It is a very different beer from Amstel in terms of its brand positioning and taste profile. We based it on consumer research which indicated that consumers were looking for choice in the premium portfolio," he said.

Amstel was estimated to have had 50percent of the premium beer market and Farr said that the impact of losing the Amstel contract was considerable because Amstel had brought SAB significant revenue.

Meanwhile, Veronique Schyns, senior spokesman for Heineken International in Amsterdam, said that while Heineken was building its own brewery in the country, Amstel would be brewed in several breweries across Europe and imported to South Africa.

"We expect the new brewery to be up and running in the next two years and we are still negotiating regarding the location," she said.

Schyns confirmed that Brandhouse, an alcohol and beverages distributor that is owned by Heineken, Namibia Breweries and Diageo, would be taking over the distribution and selling of Amstel in South Africa, starting in June. By August it expects to have a full supply of the Amstel chain.

The agreement with SAB on termination of the contract, she said, had been that SAB could continue selling whatever Amstel it still had in stock until Brandhouse took over in June.

"We distributed the last Amstel last Wednesday," said Farr. "There is no Amstel available at the moment, so consumers will have our new product in the market in the popular returnable 750ml size."