Alfred Henry Heineken (1923–2002)

Alfred Heineken transformed his family’s brewing business in the second half of the 20th century into a global concern, while maintaining its roots in the Netherlands.

The business was founded by his grandfather, Gerard Adriaan Heineken (1841?-1893) who purchased the Hooiberg (Haystack) brewery in Amsterdam in 1864, constructed a new brewery on Stadhouderskade, and in 1873 erected a plant at Crosswijkse Singel, Rotterdam. The company was a pioneer in the large-scale manufacture of bottom-fermented beer, made in the Bavarian manner, and in the use of cooling systems. Its outlook was international from its early years, and Heineken beers were exhibited at the World Fairs in Parish in 1889 and 1900.

Alfred Heineken’s father, Henry Pierre Heineken (?1888-1951), headed the company between 1914 and 1940, expanding the production of bottled beer, and establishing manufacturing subsidiaries in Malaya, Java, the Belgian Congo and Egypt. The Rotterdam brewery was rebuilt on a large scale by the architect Willem Kromhout (1864-1940), and came to be called the ‘beer cathedral’.

Alfred Heineken began to work for company on 1 June 1942 just after it had passed out of family control, which in due course he restored. Between 1946 and 1948 he worked in the sales department of Heineken’s American importer, where he learned much about marketing, and married the daughter of a family of Bourbon distillers from Kentucky. From 1951 he worked in the company’s head office where he became the inspiration of the marketing and advertising staff, introduced the smiling ‘e’ in Heineken, the brand colour green, and the logo that combines a star, a banner and a hop vine. He is reputed to have said ‘I don’t sell beer, I sell warmth’. He put the stress in marketing on the brand – the word ‘Heineken’ rather than on ‘Pilsener’, the beer type, and appreciated that most bottled beer was purchased as part of household shopping by women, to whom Heineken advertising came to be primarily directed. He oversaw profound technological changes during the 1960s, as stainless steel vessels and pipes replaced wooden vats. A new brewery was built in a rural setting at Zoetewoude in 1975, replacing the Rotterdam plant, and brewing ceased on the historic site at Stadhouderskade, Amsterdam, in 1988. The Heineken Experience visitor centre, opened in 2001, occupies an Art Deco building of 1910 on the site. 

Heineken took over its principal Dutch rival, the Amstel brewery, in 1968, and acquired a succession of other companies during the 1970s and 80s, in Alsace, Italy, Ireland and Spain, expanding into Hungary and Poland with the fall of the Iron Curtain, as well as developing subsidiaries in the Far East.

By 1990 Heineken beer was the leading brand in Europe and was available in 145 countries. The company is controlled by Heineken Holdings NV, established in 1952 to safeguard its independence, of which Alfred Heineken was chairman until 1995.

Through a trust established in 1963 Heineken encourages research in biochemistry, biophysics and medicine.