Total case sales of light beer, excluding flavored malt beverage, have declined 3.6 percent this year through mid-July compared with the year-earlier period; sales by dollar have declined 2.7, according to Dan Wandel, a beer analyst with the market research firm IRI. (Its data excludes bar and restaurant sales.)
Case sales in the "premium light" category—Heineken Light's niche—are down 2.2 percent year over year.
Heineken Light has fared worse, though. The brand hasn't been able to connect with consumers since its much-hyped debut in 2006, and has slumped significantly of late, according to IRI data.
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Heineken Light case sales by dollar sales are down 9.4 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively, this year through mid-July compared with last year, Wandel said.
The brand ranks No. 17 among light beers in dollar sales, according to IRI data.
In addition to the changes inside the bottle, the company hopes that a new look will give Heineken Light a boost. The brewer aims to achieve a more "modern and contemporary" packaging design that will portray the brand as more upscale than competitors.
"We're not really looking at beer as a point of reference, but overall luxury and upscale categories such as spirits and fragrance," said Osminkina. "That's where our inspiration is coming from."
One thing consumers won't see is advertising or packaging pointing out the recipe alteration. Heineken officials are confident they can retain customers who enjoyed the previous taste while attracting new ones without highlighting the flavor evolution.
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Heineken's shift follows similar and successful brand extensions by Anheuser-Busch, which has introduced Bud Light Platinum and Budweiser Black Crown. Both had successful launches built around sleek designs and stronger flavor.