13 Oct 2017 --- Heineken has targeted on-premise outlets that find regular taps and kegs too expensive with its new Blade draft beer dispenser, which it says is predicted to add £123 million (US$164 million) to the casual dining sector in the UK.
The £499 Blade system uses an in-built compressor and chiller that allows it to dispense cold draft beer from a tabletop. It features “plug and-pour” eight-liter kegs that are ordered online, similar in style to Nespresso's coffee pods. According to Heineken, the machine has a footprint the size of an A4 piece of paper.
Heineken points out in a press release that the UK loves draft beer, as 92 percent of all beer volume sold is draft. It adds that there is currently 56 percent penetration in the casual dining sector, making for a “huge” opportunity.
Currently, there are 20,000 licensed food outlets in the UK that can only offer bottled beer and cider, Heineken notes. With a higher rate of sale, and with consumers willing to pay more draft beer, the company predicts a huge boost to the sector.
“For the first time, draft beer is available to all outlets, and all that’s needed is a countertop and a plug,” Heineken adds.
Making draft beer possible everywhere
“This is really premium,” says Heineken Commercial Director, Blade UK, Ross Mair. “Think about what baristas do for coffee, or what mixologists to for cocktails. Blade means that the ritual of pouring and presenting a consumer with a great tasting, freshly poured draft beer, is now possible everywhere.”
“From street food vendors at a busy food festival adding value to their food proposition to cozy, stylish cafes which are limited on space, Blade will add value to their business by delivering a brand new and exciting premium experience,” Mair adds.
Blade needs be fitted with a pre-chilled keg, plugged in, switched on and pressurized before pouring a pint served at 2 degrees Celsius, Heineken explains, adding that there are no maintenance or installation costs. With draft beer outselling packaged beer three to one, the company adds that Blade will help retailers streamline and simplify their operations.
“We call it ‘Plug and Pour,’” continues Mair. “It takes less than a minute to set up, and changing the kegs is really simple – anyone can do it. Plus there is no need to clean lines – it’s simply fresh beer cooled to 2 degrees, and the beer stays fresh for 30 days.”
Mair points out that Blade is set to enable a whole range of businesses that weren’t previously able to offer draft beer to sell it to customers.
“From boutique hotels, high street restaurants, theatre bars, cafés, coffee shops, cinemas, barber’s shops, hairdressers, street food traders, event caterers, corporate hospitality providers, staff canteens for after-work drinks … the list is endless! Blade really is set to change the rules for draft beer, turning any countertop into a bar,” Mair says.
Customers can also download a smartphone app to manage their accounts and Heineken hopes future versions of the Blade will be Wi-Fi enabled, allowing automatic redelivery.
Only two beers – brand Heineken and Birra Moretti – are available at first, though Heineken has plans to extend the portfolio in 2018. Kegs cost £23.99 for brand Heineken and £24.99 for Birra Moretti.
The Blade will be available in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Romania and Austria.
Heineken launched the similar BeerTender, which was designed for use at home, in 2004 but its popularity has since fallen. In 2013, Heineken unveiled a new design called The Sub, which was designed for a two-liter keg of beer with the Heineken, Affligem, Desperados and Birra Moretti Baffo d'Oro beer brands intended to be used. The Sub also targeted home use.