Heineken International is a Dutch brewing company, founded in 1864 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in Amsterdam. As of 2015, Heineken owns over 165 breweries in more than 70 countries and employs approximately 76,000 people. It brews and sells more than 250 international premium, regional, local and specialty beers,. The flagship products are Heineken Pilsener and Amstel Light. With an annual beer production of 181.3 million hectoliters, Heineken ranks as the third largest brewer in the world after Anheuser-Busch, InBev, and SABMiller, based on revenue.
The Heineken company was founded in 1863 when the 22-year-old Gerard Adriaan Heineken bought a brewery known as De Hooiberg (the haystack) in Amsterdam. In 1869 Heineken switched to the use of bottom-fermenting yeast. In 1886 Dr. H. Elion, a pupil of the French chemist Louis Pasteur, developed the "Heineken A-yeast" in the Heineken laboratory. This yeast is still the key ingredient of Heineken beer. In 1873 the brewery's name changed to Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij (HBM), and opened a second brewery in Rotterdam in 1874.
The founder's son, Henry Pierre Heineken, managed the company from 1917 to 1940, and continued involvement with the company until 1951. During his tenure, Heineken developed techniques to maintain consistent beer quality during large-scale production. Henry Pierre's son, Alfred Henry "Freddy" Heineken, started working at the company in 1940, and 1971 was appointed Chairman of the Executive Board. He was a powerful force behind Heineken's continued global expansion, and while he retired from the Executive Board in 1989, he maintained involvement with the company until his death in 2002.
After World War I, the company focused more and more on export. Three days after Prohibition ended in the United States, the first Heineken shipment landed as the first legal shipment of beer. From that day on, Heineken has remained one of the most successful imported beer brands in the United States. During World War II Japanese soldiers enjoyed drinking Heineken in the Dutch East Indies, which is something of an irony given their treatment of Dutch prisoners of war.
In late 2015, Heineken's subsidiary in Greece, Athenian Brewery, was handed a record 31.5 million euro fine for market abuse. Heineken's long-standing subsidiary in the Congo, Bralima, also attracted controversy in recent times. One of its partners, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was convicted of war crimes in the International Criminal Court in 2016.
Heineken International owns and manages one of the world's leading portfolios of beer brands. The principal international brands are Heineken Pilsener, Amstel Light, and Amstel. Heineken is positioned as an international premium brand. Its appeal is growing in many markets. Heineken is the leading beer brand in Europe and Amstel is the third largest. In Europe, Amstel is positioned in the mid-priced mainstream segment, the largest segment of the market, and is available in more than 90 countries around the world.
In addition to the Heineken and Amstel brands, the Heineken Group brews and sells more than 200 international premium, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders, including:
- Birra Moretti
- Newcastle Brown Ale
- Dos Equis
Heineken organises the company into five territories which are then divided into regional operations. The regions are: Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, The Americas, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. These territories contain 115 brewing plants in more than 65 countries, brewing local brands in addition to the Heineken brand.