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  Don Blaustein '80

Alumni Profile: Don Blaustein '80

Don Blaustein '80 helps Heineken tap market

By Shannon Sweetnam

Before Heineken USA President and CEO Don Blaustein '80 started his career, his father offered him this advice: Pursue what you love aggressively, passionately and with integrity and the rest will take care of itself. Since Blaustein's start in the beer industry 23 years ago, he has taken that advice to heart, finding his life's work in what he describes as the "richest, most innovative and dynamic industry."

"There are so many new and clever things happening in marketing and sales, so many product innovations and talented people working in the industry that you can't help but be excited about working in the beer business," says Blaustein, whose recent promotion from senior vice president of sales to president of Heineken USA has given him the opportunity to shape Heineken USA's growth.

Now the fastest growing of the five largest beer companies in the United States, Heineken USA (HUSA) has worked hard to capitalize on consumer trends, including those of people trading up to higher-end and import beers, and trading over to lighter beer as they become more health conscious. The company embarked on a highly successful marketing and advertising campaign for Dos Equis (a brand it distributes), which played a key role in HUSA's growth in 2007. Also contributing to the company's success was growth of its flagship Heineken Lager and the launch in 2006 of Heineken Premium Light, which many in the company were cautious about introducing, feeling that a light beer could weaken Heineken's brand image.

"The amazing story about this is that about 15 years ago, they started talking about whether introducing a light beer would adversely impact Heineken's base brand, and the debate raged for years," says Blaustein. "Finally, the market was right and we did a test launch before rolling theproduct out nationally. Both believers and non-believers are happy with the tremendous success we've had with Heineken Premium Light; in fact, it actually had a 'halo' effect on the base brand."

During his role as sales SVP at HUSA, Blaustein had a considerable impact on this recent success, playing a role in the launch of Heineken Premium Light as well as driving sales that contributed to a 10-year extension of an agreement with the Mexico-based brewer, FEMSA Cerveza. HUSA is the sole and exclusive importer of FEMSA's beer brands in the United States, which include Dos Equis, Tecate and a new Tecate Light, Bohemia and Sol. This agreement has given the company's portfolio greater geographic and demographic balance.

Blaustein's achievements at Heineken have their roots in lessons learned during his Kellogg School education and the five years spent in the beverage sector of Kraft/General Food Corporation after he graduated. "Both my experience at Kellogg and at General Foods provided a wonderful training ground for me," he says. "I would not be where I am today if I hadn't learned to work in such collaborative but disciplined environments, surrounded by knowledgeable professors and associates."

What's next for Blaustein at Heineken USA? "We've only really started to scratch the surface of building the premium import light segment," he says. "We will continue to leverage the success of Dos Equis and Heineken Premium Light, and to bring to market innovations like the BeerTender, an elegant countertop appliance that pours the perfect draft beer using our Heineken and Heineken Premium Light Draught Kegs."

Blaustein says that while HUSA will always focus on offering customers new choices, the core business will remain the same: "bringing high-quality beer to market in an innovative, engaging and responsible way."

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