The power and importance of the sun becomes even more relevant as we enter the dreary, low-light winter months and pandemic-related regulations continue to urge people to stay home. This, coupled with the imminence of climate change has prompted Sol to achieve another significant milestone in the beer brand’s sustainability strategy, Brewing A Better World. The recent installation of over 9,000 solar panels at its Zoeterwoude Brewery in the Netherlands marks an impressive feat for the Heineken-owned brand, whose ethos emphasizes an “authentic, longstanding connection with the sun, while taking care of the planet and its people.” To learn more about its sustainable initiative, Trend Hunter chatted with Sol’s Global Brand Director, Diederik Vos.
Can you start by telling us about your role as Sol’s Global Brand Director?
I’ve been with HEINEKEN for 15 years, where I’ve worked in several marketing and brand director roles in the Netherlands, Canada and South Africa. Currently, as the Global Director for Sol and Desperados, I am responsible for the development and implementation of the long-term integrated marketing, trade-marketing & innovation plans to create top-line growth expressed as market share, revenue, profitability and brand equity.
The marketing strategy for Sol is focused around the brand’s positioning, Taste the Sun. The aim is to encourage people to embrace the sun’s positive energy, explore new possibilities and adventures in the sunshine, reinforcing our belief that every moment can be revitalised by the positive energy of the sun.
In what ways are sustainability and innovation important to the Sol brand?
As the brand’s name suggests, Sol is all about the sun and aims to inspire people to connect to the positive energy that comes from it. As pressure on natural resources grows, responsible and sustainable sourcing has never been more important. By brewing Sol using renewable electricity from solar power, we’re not only reaffirming the brand’s sun-inspired heritage but also making a step-change in our journey to reduce carbon emissions.
As a global beer brand, it is our responsibility to conduct business and innovate in a way that can be a positive force for change and to provide people with a product that fits increasingly sustainable-minded preferences.
Brewing Sol using solar power supports HEINEKEN’s sustainable development strategy, Brewing a Better World, which aims to increase its share of renewable energy in production to 70% by 2030.
As a youthful brand, it’s important to stay up to date on consumer trends. Are there any adjacent industries you look to when identifying new trends? If no, where do you look to find inspiration?
It is really important to stay close to consumer trends and nowadays, in many ways, the consumer is closer than ever. Through data, social listening, digital research and social engagement, we have access to immediate feedback, meaning we can constantly adapt to meet changing consumer and social trends.
It is also really important, when identifying these trends, to find the areas that overlap with your brand and where you can play a role. That’s why Brewed with Solar Energy is a great initiative for Sol. It not only links authentically to our brand DNA but also ensures we’re doing business in a more sustainable way that meets changing consumer expectations for brands regarding environmental and social issues.
Can you speak to Sol’s new solar energy initiative?
Following the installation of 9,212 solar panels at Zoeterwoude in the Netherlands, Sol brewed at the Dutch brewery since April 2020 has been produced using renewable electricity from solar power. To mark this achievement, we introduced a new sustainability-related initiative to our packaging, Brewed with Solar Energy. This will be accessible to consumers in more than 50 markets, including the UK, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Finland, Spain and the Netherlands.
What is the importance of aligning your brand with a positive cause? In what ways do you hope this initiative will impact consumer behavior?
Brands have an obligation to continuously strive to do things better and smarter. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business. When aligning your brand to a cause, it’s important to find one that fits naturally. With our brand positioning that aims to inspire people to embrace the positive energy of the sun, we see the transition to brewing with solar energy as a great way to further reinforce our authentic connection to it, whilst taking care of the planet and its people.
We have been using solar panels to power our breweries since 2013 and innovating to fulfil HEINEKEN’s long-term ambition of increasing the share of renewable energy in production to 70% by 2030. With an increasing number of consumers having sustainable-minded preferences, we hope that by harnessing the sun’s positive energy and infusing it into Sol’s production process, we’re creating a whole new way for people to Taste the Sun.
What advice would you give to brands or businesses looking to engage in more eco-friendly behavior?
Because sustainability is such a broad topic, make sure you start by defining your goals and developing a sustainability strategy that can permeate across all aspects of the business. Conducting business sustainably should be within your strategy, from short-term goals to long-term commitments.
What changes do you anticipate in the next 5-10 years for your industry?
Looking ahead, we see it as our responsibility, as a global company, to reduce CO₂ emissions across the value chain – from barley to bar.
By introducing solar panels to the Zoeterwoude brewery, we’re contributing to the HEINEKEN CO₂ reduction strategy for 2030 – Drop the C. It focuses on energy efficiency, electricity and thermal renewable energy generation in production, distribution, packaging and cooling.
We will continue innovating in line with consumer demand to be socially responsible and keep sustainability top of mind – as we suspect companies, in the beer industry and beyond, will do as well.
Image Credit: Sol