‘You need to stand for your values’: Heineken CEO spanks Bud Light over Dylan Mulvaney fallout

The CEO of Heineken lectured Bud Light over the controversy it’s embroiled in concerning transgender Dylan Mulvany, telling the company it needed to stand by its principles.

(Video Credit: CNBC International TV)

Heineken CEO Dolf van den Brink appeared to advise Bud Light it shouldn’t fold despite a crippling boycott.

He claimed that Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewery, has learned lessons from the social media inferno surrounding Bud Light. The CEO believes that businesses should stand up for their “values.” He was vague on exactly what those “values” are.

“Particularly in the Western world, we do see a lot of polarization in society. And that’s affecting all players, all actors in society, also businesses and also brands,” van den Brink told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

“You have to be thoughtful, you have to be balanced. And at the same time, you need to stand for your values and your principles. And we try to do that to the best of our abilities,” he stated, straddling the culture war fence. “So far, I’m proud of how our brand teams across our operating companies are navigating this new world.”

He was on the show to address Heineken cutting its 2023 profit growth forecast. That is primarily because his company couldn’t read the room and hiked its prices, resulting in people buying less of the company’s beer. The brewer reported a 5.6% decline in beer sales and an 8.8% like-for-like fall in operating profit, which came in well below a company-compiled consensus forecast.

“We always knew the first half of the year would all be about the inflationary pressures on our input costs, particularly in Europe which is an important region to us,” van den Brink claimed on Monday.

“We frontloaded the year with pricing, as such as we expected some volume softness in the beginning of the year. Overall we are quite happy with our strong revenue growth, we grew revenue between nine and 10% in three out of four regions,” he said, trying to paint a rosy financial picture that many see right through.

Analysts at RBC Europe called the results the “worst set … we’ve had so far,” pointing out the forecast misses in the Americas and Europe and significant challenges in Asia supply chains and sales, according to NBC News. That especially applies to Vietnam as “beerflation” bites.

Van den Brink asserted that advertising was extremely important in an ever-changing market environment. Heineken had to increase marketing spending by 200 million euros ($221 million) in the first half of the year, according to the CEO.

This follows after Bud Light lost its spot as the top-selling beer in the US to Modelo Especial due to a boycott over the Dylan Mulvaney fiasco. Bud Light sales fell 24.6% in the period year-on-year, according to NielsenIQ data gathered by consulting firm Bump Williams.

The company has distanced itself from Mulvaney and the catastrophic marketing campaign, while also firing C-suite executives deemed responsible for the campaign.

Bud Light and Anheuser Busch have also been excoriated for not standing behind Mulvaney as a debate rages over whether corporations will continue to back social or political causes. Industry groups including Outvertising have called on brands not to back away from campaigns and partnerships supportive of the LGBTQ+ community over fears of a similar boycott.

Anheuser Busch will report its second-quarter results on Thursday.

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