Heineken’s 0.0 non-alcoholic beer helped the brewery record the fastest sales growth in a decade in 2018 (Lex van Lieshout)

The Hague (AFP) – Dutch brewing giant Heineken on Wednesday cheered the fastest sales growth in its core brand in a decade, helped by the roll-out of a non-alcoholic beer.

Despite a fall in overall profits the world’s second largest brewer recorded growing sales in major markets last year, although it warned that 2019 could be “volatile”.

“In 2018 we delivered another year of superior top-line growth. The Heineken brand grew 7.7 percent, its best performance in over a decade, with Heineken 0.0 now available in 38 countries,” Heineken CEO Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said.

The Amsterdam-based brewer’ posted profits of 1.9 billion euros for 2018, down 1.6 percent on the year before, based on total sales of 26.8 billion, up by 3.7 percent.

Heineken sales grew by double digits in Brazil, Britain, Germany, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa and Russia, while China returned to profit, the company said.

Among other brands, sales of Tiger, Desperados, Birra Moretti and Krusovice all grew by volume.

But the brewer warned that “going into 2019, we expect the environment to remain uncertain and volatile”.

The group is the world’s second-largest brewer after Belgium-based AB InBev.

Founded in the 19th century, Heineken produces and sells more than 250 brands including Desperados tequila-flavoured beer, Sol, John Smith’s and Strongbow cider.

It employs about 80,000 people in 70 countries around the world.

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