Brewing giant Heineken has said strong demand for a non-alcoholic variant of its flagship lager helped it to higher profits in 2018.
The Heineken brand enjoyed its best sales growth in more than a decade after the roll-out of a zero-alcohol version.
Its Dutch owner said yesterday sales by volume of its no- and low-alcohol lagers Heineken 0.0 and Radler saw “mid single digit” growth, with a “high single digit” rise across Europe, including the UK.
Heineken, which also has Tiger, Sol and Red Stripe among its portfolio of beers, with Bulmers and Strongbow part of its cider range, saw its share price jump 6% on the Euronext bourse in Amsterdam after its report on 2018 financial performance.
The world’s second-largest brewer said sales of its leading brand rose 7.7% by volume last year, helped by the growing success of Heineken 0.0 as it rolled out the zero-alcohol tipple to 38 markets worldwide.
It reported a forecast-beating 12.5% jump in annual net profits to £2.1 billion and gave a bullish outlook for the year.
On an underlying basis, operating profits rose 6.4% to £3.4bn.
Heineken is planning to expand Heineken 0.0 to further markets over the year ahead, having more than doubled the brand’s global reach since 2017.
Jean-Francois van Boxmeer, chairman and chief executive of the group, said: “In 2018 we delivered another year of superior top-line growth.
“The Heineken brand grew 7.7%, its best performance in over a decade, with Heineken 0.0 now available in 38 countries.
“Our premium portfolio grew double digit, led by our international brands, craft and variety and cider portfolios.
“Going into 2019, we expect the environment to remain uncertain and volatile.
“Overall, we anticipate our (underlying) operating profit to grow by mid-single digit on an organic basis.”
Heineken said total revenue rose 5.9% on an organic basis to £23.5bn, or 3.7% higher on a reported basis.
Sales of its international brands such as Tiger and Desperados had double-digit growth, as did cider volumes, with mid-single digit growth in the UK.
It highlighted a new partnership in China, with conglomerate China Reseurces Enterprise, as a key strategic milestone achieved during 2018.