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Heineken buys into Dutch RTD brand Stëlz

Amsterdam-based ready-to-drink (RTD) brand Stëlz has stepped up its growth plans after selling a minority share to Heineken Netherlands.

The acquisition will help Stëlz to grow in the Netherlands’ fast-growing “beyond beer” category

Stëlz was founded in 2020 by Milan Voet and Glenn Cornelisse. The brand produces a range of 4.5% ABV hard seltzers as its flagship products. Its portfolio also includes canned cocktails in classic formats such as Spritzes and Moscow Mules – plus a Hard Iced Tea flavoured with lemon, which the newest addition to its range.

Voet said since the brand began, he’s noticed it has become a favourite drink at festivals, clubs, student associations, and home gatherings, but noted there was “much more potential”.

On how the partnership with Heineken can unlock that potential, he said: “Heineken has been in the business for over 150 years; they understand the beverage market like no one else and can help us with knowledge and expertise in the retail, hospitality, and festival domains.

“But the collaboration is not one-sided. The enthusiasm is mutual. Heineken is impressed with how our brand manifests itself with unique marketing campaigns and how we are in touch with our community. This appreciation immediately gave a good feeling and laid a solid foundation of trust.”

Full financial details on the deal have not been disclosed, but Stëlz said that for Heineken, it was a “strategic long-term investment in the growing ‘beyond beer’ segment.”

The brand’s flagship products are a range of 4.5% ABV hard seltzers

The acquisition will allow Stëlz to call on Heinken’s strength in the market, resources and knowledge to expand in the ‘beyond beer’ category, though it will remain an independent brand.

Hard seltzer sales in the Netherlands accounted for 13% of all RTD sales in the country in 2023, Stëlz noted. This figure is expected to grow to 18% by 2028.

Maarten Schuurman, managing director of Heineken Netherlands, said it was “admirable” how Stëlz had secured a “unique position with their hard seltzer in a short time”.

On the company’s decision to invest in the brand, he explained: “Pioneering, learning and growing is in our blood, and we like to collaborate with parties who approach challenges in the same way.

“On one hand, it’s about the product, but it’s especially about how Stëlz markets it in their own distinctive way. Direct and straightforward. With a keen sense of the current zeitgeist and the moments when you enjoy a hard seltzer. With spot-on communication for new generations. ‘The Stëlz way,’ as they call it.

“We can learn from that. In turn, we help Stëlz with the knowledge and expertise we have built over more than 150 years.”

While growth rates are stabilising for RTDs, producers remain optimistic about the potential of the category. Recently, SB investigated how the sector is likely to develop over the coming years.

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