Drink Up, Beer Is Healthy Says... Heineken Exec

Beer comes with health benefits, Heineken's chief commercial officer told CNBC, offering drinkers a new reason to indulge.

Drink Up, Beer Is Healthy Says... Heineken Exec
Bloomberg | Getty Images

"There is everything healthy about beer," said Alexis Nasard, chief commercial officer for the Dutch brewing giant.

Nasard argued that beer has fewer calories than milk and contains no additives.

"Beer has much less calories than many things you can think about… Beer has fewer calories than a glass of milk," he said.

"The other thing is beer is one of the few drinks that is purely natural; it is water, hops, barley and yeast, which is quite healthy."

Nasard's comments were reminiscent of Guinness's famed advertising slogan, "Guinness is good for you," dating from the 1920s. Pregnant women and nursing mothers were encouraged to drink Guinness for its reputedly high iron content.

According to the U.K.'s Beer Education Trust, a half-pint (284 milliliters) of 3.8 percent bitter (pale ale) contains 85 calories, while the same-sized glass of orange juice has 128 calories.

Meanwhile, a medium-sized glass (175 milliliters) of white wine contains 131 calories and red wine has 119 calories.

"Beer is around 95 percent water, contains very few free sugars to convert into fat, which gives it a low glycaemic load, and has a relatively low level of alcohol (ethanol) per volume. This all means that it is less fattening than spirits or wine," said Jack Edmonds, a Harley Street General Practitioner in London, in a report by the Beer Education Trust.

"It is not beer that makes you fat but the lifestyle and eating habits which may go along with beer drinking."

Edmonds added: "However this doesn't mean we can all rush out and drink huge amounts of beer… All the benefits of beer — health, social and psychological — are only enjoyed when beer is drunk in moderation and preferably with a low alcohol content."

In his interview with CNBC, Nasard said that Heineken, the world's third largest brewer, aims to surprise consumers with its branding and advertising campaigns.

"You want to keep it cool, but you also want to keep it surprising. What we want is to come with surprising messages, which get people saying 'What are they doing?'" he said.

"We were one of the first brewers that tried to move away from the 'big fat beer' jokes, creating advertising that is unisex, complex and has an artistic dimension."

Nasard highlighted Heineken's product placement in the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, as an example of the brand's "surprise" policy. In his third appearance as Bond, Daniel Craig is shown sipping a Heineken beer rather than his trademark vodka martini.

Read More: How to Be Cool Like James Bond

"Nobody expected James Bond to drink Heineken, and he is drinking Heineken — quite naturally, actually," said Nasard.

"Heineken's position is to be a 'man of the world' and James Bond is the quintessential man of the world, and it is universal because in every man lies a little James Bond."

Heineken's third quarter earnings, posted earlier this month, trumped expectations with sales up in all regions bar Western Europe. Investors focused however on the brewery's difficulties in Europe; sales fell in Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, but rose in France and Italy.

Read More: Are Beer Taxes Killing the British Pub?

On Monday, Heineken shares on the Amsterdam Exchange index traded 35.88 percent higher year-to-date at 48.61 euros ($62.17).

CORRECTION: Guinness' famed advertising slogan was "Guinness is good for you" not "beer is good for you" as a previous version of this article stated.

— By CNBC.com's Katy Barnato