Gama spoke to Laura Trivulzio-Huijgen, Global Innovation Manager, Heineken International
What are your day to day activities as Global Innovation Manager?
I have been at Heineken for more than 12 years, working in different commercial functions across several countries, and what has always energised me is the passion we have for our brands and for our consumers. Focusing on my current role, my clear priority is making sure our innovation pipeline keeps delivering value for our brands and differentiation to our consumers.
As Global Manager I need to ensure we capture local trends, consumer needs and business opportunities and translate them into global propositions that bring extra value to consumers and to our company. I’m leading a team of professionals, which makes my work challenging but at the same time rewarding. On a daily basis I’m dealing with a variety of stakeholders who might have different perspectives, but one ultimate goal: bringing value accretive innovations to the market. Heineken, our customers and end consumers need to be able to see and get added value. Only then can we create sustainable innovation.
What key trends do you expect to shape alcoholic drink innovation in 2014?
I do not expect significant changes in the big trends that have been shaping innovation in alcoholic beverages in the last couple of years. Consumers are looking for new experiences and new tastes (not only in drinks) and that is something the beverage industry is taking particular account of when coming up with new propositions. Consumers get satisfied quicker than they used to, so if you want to be relevant at different occasions and throughout the day and night you need to have a “true portfolio”. That said, you need to make sure you are visible to consumers, meaning you need to be distinct enough but not too niche.
What should manufacturers do to be successful in the current economic climate?
Manufacturers need to listen, listen and listen to consumers. If you fail to do that there will be someone who will and they will undoubtedly be more successful. Every consumer likes to be treated as someone special – mass consumerism is struggling in the developed world. Consumers can easily access information in our increasingly connected world, so apart from listening, you’ll also have to deliver a truthful and honest proposition. Consumers love it when brands speak the truth, so you’ll need to give them a true story.
Is the demand for “easy-to-drink” (e.g. FABs and sparkling wines) and low alcohol products set to continue? How do you see this trend evolving?
All the indications are that this trend is set to continue. Consumers are looking on the one hand for accessible flavours and simple propositions and on the other hand for more extreme tastes and experiences. “Easy to drink” propositions broaden the access to alcoholic beverages as well as give consumers the opportunity to enjoy these drinks at different occasions and in different places (e.g. after sport, or when looking for pure refreshment). The successful development of Radler products was a clear example of this trend.
Which categories or consumer groups currently offer the greatest growth opportunities for beverage companies?
Nowadays, even more than in the past, you cannot afford to forget anyone! Millennials are the consumers of the present and of the future so understanding them is key to thriving as a company in the years to come. But the demanding and growing seniors population, with its above average income, offers a new range of opportunities.
From a marketing perspective, how is the way beverage companies are looking to reach and engage with consumers changing? How can a brand successfully resonate with consumers?
Again, you need to be relevant to consumers, you need to excite them and at the same time be authentic. Consumers will know a whole lot about a brand, and they will rely more on what friends and “opinion leaders” tell them than they will rely on what a brand is saying on a television commercial. A brand needs to make sure they have “advocates”: consumers who will go the extra mile for the brand. Brand advocates are “highly satisfied consumers who go out of their way to actively promote the products they love and care about, they are a different breed altogether”. Often a positive experience with a brand or a successful customer-service relationship motivates brand advocates to express their positive feelings towards a brand. So in the end you truly get what you deserve!