Dry spell over: Heineken back in the game

The popular Dutch beer Heineken is back in supply after an agreement has been reached with a supplier.
The popular Dutch beer Heineken is back in supply after an agreement has been reached with a supplier. Hong Menea

Dry spell over: Heineken back in the game

The Kingdom’s four-month dry spell is over as a local subsidiary takes over distribution duties for the popular Dutch brew

For the Kingdom’s Heineken lovers, the dry spell is over.

In the past four months, the Dutch lager has been widely unavailable in Cambodia’s bars and restaurants, but the messy dispute over distribution rights that led to the drought has come to end.

“We are pleased this is now over, and that you are able to order your Heineken beer from Cambodia Brewery Limited [CBL],” a spokesman from CBL said yesterday.

The fall-out over Heineken started when local firm Attwood Import Export’s 10-year contract to distribute the beer in Cambodia expired in December

Cambodia Brewery Limited, a local brewery, which has been slowly bought out by Heineken over the years, took up the rights as exclusive distributor at the time.

Attwood said in January that it was “not contesting the exclusive right” of Heineken’s Asia-Pacific branch, the owners of CBL to distribute Heineken, but felt it had been left in the dark about the decision after a decade of building up a strong brand in the Kingdom.

In April, imports of Heineken dried up. Bars, restaurants and wholesalers were unable to buy the beer.

CBL declined to say what was behind the lack of Heineken in the market, other than to say it was working in concert with Attwood to bring the beer back.

Yesterday, however, CBL said that after negotiations with local authorities and Attwood, an agreement had been reached with the former distributor.

As a result, Heineken has been flowing back into the market over the past two weeks.

The company declined to provide details of the agreement yesterday, but was promoting the outcome with advertisements in the local press, including the Post.

The news that the Dutch lager was again available was welcomed yesterday by local restaurateurs, who said the beer had long been popular with Cambodian drinkers.

“I think the market for Heineken has not been moving much because they are changing the new leadership, but whoever drinks Heineken still drinks Heineken,” said Hak Lina, president of the Cambodia Restaurant Association and general manager of popular Phnom Penh restaurant Topaz.

“This is a good thing for my business because at least I have a stable distributor and I know where to get it from.”

Popular among expats and Cambodian 20-somethings at the open-all-hours River House restaurant, operations manager, Mony Rath, said the return of Heineken would be a relief to staff who constantly had to apologise for the shortage.

“When Heineken comes back, it is good for our place because clients keep asking for the beer, and we don’t have any to serve them,” she said.

“We need to make excuses to our clients all the time.”

Meanwhile, with Heineken temporarily out of the scene, Attwood signed on to become the official distributor for Corona in May and has since launched an aggressive marketing campaign to shore up sales for the Mexican beer, according to the general manager of an upscale Phnom Penh bar.

“Corona from Attwood made a huge leap in that time.

For example, every restaurant has a corona cocktail now,” he said, declining to be named as he needed to maintain good relations with both CBL and Attwood.

“It seems like it was a clear strategy to tie down distribution of Heineken while there was a big campaign to strengthen Corona. It seems to have worked,” he added.

The PR firm representing Attwood did not return a request for comment by time of print yesterday.

Additional reporting Charles Rollet.

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