Show Hide image

In cider, knowledge: Heineken buys Stassen

The Dutch brewer hopes to capitalise on the Belgian research company's expertise.

The Dutch brewer Heineken has acquired the research and development facilities and capabilities of the Belgian cider-maker Stassen. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Stassen operates several facilities, including those for making cider and the de-alcoholisation of cider, beer and wine. The company was closely involved in the development of several of Heineken’s recently introduced ciders, such as Strongbow Gold, Jacques and Bulmers No 17.

Alexis Nasard, chief commercial officer of Heineken, said:

We are excited about Stassen Ciders and its employees becoming part of the Heineken company. Stassen’s strong R&D and innovation capabilities will serve us well in a time when there is a lot of new product activity in the category. Consumers around the world are increasingly intrigued by cider and its unique, refreshing taste, 100 per cent natural ingredients and rich heritage and we are well positioned to capitalise on this opportunity.

Philippe Stassen, managing director of Stassen, said:

By integrating Stassen Ciders into the Heineken company and becoming its cider R&D centre, we are strengthening our leading position in the category's premium market segment. This is a great opportunity for our employees and for our site in Aubel, which will further enhance its international scope. We are looking forward to the next phase of our growth story.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.