Bacardi's Hatuey beer expands to Broward
By Doreen Hemlock, Staff writer
5:39 a.m. EST, November 9, 2012
A veteran beer brand from Cuba, now made in the United States, is
heading to Broward County.
Hatuey beer bears the name of a Taino Indian chief who died fighting the
Spanish conquerors and is often described as Cuba's first national hero.
The Bacardi group that traces its roots to Cuba and is best known for
rum, is developing the brand as a craft beer in the United States,
starting with sales in South Florida and its large Cuban communities.
At the Miramar outlet of Cuban restaurant chain La Carreta, the beer
already is popular, sparking pride among Cuban-Americans and drawing
interest from others curious to try new beers, employees said.
Some Cubans revel in the legend of the brave chief who was captured by
the Spanish and readied to be burned alive. A priest asked him to pray,
so that Hatuey could go heaven. The chief asked if Spaniards went to
that heaven. When the priest said yes, Hatuey refused and said he
wouldn't go there.
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Bacardi launched Hatuey beer for the U.S. market in 1995, and after
hiccups, re-launched it last year with new packaging and a new formula.
Today's pale ale more closely resembles a premium beer that was a
top-seller in Cuba from the 1920s through the '50s, said Anler Morejon,
brand manager with Bacardi USA.
In Florida's crowded beer market, Bacardi is positioning the brand as a
specialty beer, more expensive than top-selling imports Heineken and
Presidente and similar in price to U.S. craft beers like Sam Adams. The
suggested retail price is $8.99 a six-pack, making it more a brew to
savor than to guzzle.
Hatuey's new formula kicked off last summer in Miami-Dade and Monroe
counties, selling about 10,000 cases in its first year. The recent
addition of kegs to meet demand for draft beer should help boost sales
beyond 12,000 cases this year. Plus, expansion later in Tampa, Orlando
and other Florida cities could grow sales annually to more than 50,000
cases in another five years, said Morejon.
Craft beers are the hottest segment of the U.S. beer market, up by
double-digits for years as the overall market droops. Even so, craft
beers represent just 6 percent of the U.S. beer market, and they face
tough competition, said Benj Steinman, editor of newsletter Beer
Marketer's Insights of Suffern, N.Y.
More than 2,000 craft beers now are sold in America, with at least 1,300
more in planning stages. Hatuey remains just a "speck" in a U.S.
craft-beer market that's reached 170 million cases a year, said Steinman.
Still, for Bacardi, the brand carries special weight. In Cuba, before
the 1959 revolution, Hatuey's sales of millions of cases yearly helped
fund the company's expansion in Puerto Rico and Mexico. That business
overseas provided a base after Fidel Castro's government nationalized
Bacardi holdings on the island.
"The family doesn't want the brand to go by the wayside," said Morejon.
"We want to keep the brand alive, because if things do change in Cuba,
we want to be back there in a heartbeat."
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