Heineken invests R2.3bn in its SA returnable bottling programme

Published Feb 28, 2024


Popular global premium beer maker Heineken announced on Tuesday that it has invested R2.3 billion in its returnable bottling programme in South Africa, more than doubling its share of returnable beer bottles.

The company’s move aims to align to the beer maker’s global ambition of net zero carbon by 2040 as per the Dutch brewer’s Brew a Better World strategy.

“Heineken beer, which has the same bottle design in 190 countries worldwide, will break with tradition unveiling a bold new design for its returnable bottle in South Africa, a change not made anywhere else in the world. The 650ml returnable bottle, dubbed the ‘Star Bottle’, features the iconic Heineken star on its body with the Heineken name deep-etched into the glass,“ the company said in a statement.

The move comes shortly after the approximately R40bn acquisition of Distell and Namibia Breweries.

This had extended the group portfolio and had created a new beverages champion in southern Africa, the Amsterdam-listed brewer said.

Over the past year, Heineken faced pricing to offset unprecedented levels of commodity and energy inflation, which impacted consumer off-take. In the second half, however, pricing moderated and volume trends improved in most of Heineken’s markets.

Group revenue for the year increased 4.9% to €36.4bn (R755.6bn). Net revenue increased by 5.5% organically, with net revenue per hectolitre up 10.8% and total consolidated volume declining by 4.7%.

Jordi Borrut, managing director of Heineken Beverages, said: “This is an important decision for our global business, with the first returnable Heineken bottle to be sold on South African soil. Sustainability is a journey, and we are starting with a few footsteps in the right direction”.

Heineken further stated that in 2022 the company invested in a cutting-edge water reclamation facility and a state-of-the-art solar power plant with more than 14 000 panels for its Sedibeng brewery, achieving an energy generation capacity of 6.5 megawatts, reducing the brewery’s carbon emissions by about 30%.

Among its ambitions, the company aims to reach net zero carbon emissions across its value chain by 2040, which would position Heineken 10 years ahead of the 2050 Paris Climate Agreement target, making the company the first global brewer to commit to such an ambitious timeline.

With the launch of its returnable bottle, Heineken said it would be opening several Heineken Green Zones – a collection of open parks and meadows complemented by food and flower gardens, as well as creative arts spaces in communities across the country, including Philippi, Cape Town, Eldorado Park, and Lawley in Johannesburg.

“This initiative aims to promote sustainability-driven behaviours within communities and provide essential recreational areas that integrate food gardens and inspiring art installations. The initiative will be run in partnership with GreenPop, a group dedicated to reforestation and urban green zones in sub-Saharan Africa. The company aims to complete five green zones in the first half of 2024 covering over 30 000 square metres of indigenous plants,” the company said in a statement.

“The Heineken returnable Star Bottle isn’t just about clearing glass; we should always push ourselves to do more to create sustainable change in the communities where our business operates. The Heineken Green Zones are another way in which we can achieve that ambition,” explained Borrut.

Heineken has joined a number of global sustainability and net zero initiatives, including the Climate Group’s RE100 programme, We Mean Business Coalition, the Race to Zero movement, the Business Ambition for 1.5C, and the Climate Pledge.

“We recognise that sustainability is non-negotiable globally and we remain committed to maintaining sustainable business operations, and the introduction of the new Heineken returnable bottle, along with the investment in the Green Zones, marks small but meaningful steps in the right direction,” Borrut further said.