Meet Stephanie Heil, Innovation and Packaging Manager for Heineken USA. Stephanie’s broad experience with the company allows her to bridge the operational and marketing sides of the business, a background that she considers critical – and a perfect launch pad — to her present role.
She’s been with Heineken for 15 years, where she has had various roles in Customer Service, Supply Chain Management and Merchandising – all leading to her current role as the head of Packaging for Heineken USA. In all of these roles, Stephanie gained expertise in the full supply chain for bringing packaging to market and technical expertise in design, printing capabilities, color targets and substrates. Today she has the lead role for all packaging, including innovation, design change and promotional packaging projects across the Heineken USA brand portfolio.
Here’s what Stephanie had to share in response to our questions:
Q. In what significant way have you realized your role as packaging lead for Heineken USA?
A. I’ve upgraded our design capabilities and changed our companies’ mindset to look at packaging as one of the most important media vehicles to make an emotional connection with our consumer. For example, Heineken USA has had a very successful Beers of Mexico pack in the market for over 10 years. The design was pretty generic and getting tired. The company knew the pack had a lot more potential and asked me to lead the charge to reinvigorate the pack treating Beers of Mexico as a Brand. My proudest achievement is making Beers of Mexico, through design, the ultimate choice for people looking to turn their party into a Fiesta. And as a result, the pack has been a major source of growth for the company in the last 3 years.
Q. At Heineken, is packaging viewed as strategic or operational – or both?
A. I’d say both. It’s strategic with regard to meeting business objectives and the market demands of various channels. It’s operational because there has to be a thorough approach to bring great designs to market.
Q. In your view, what is the greatest obstacle or bottleneck in the packaging process?
A. Time to market. To stay competitive we need to respond quickly to consumer and customer demands. And let’s face it, there’s a lot that goes into bringing a package to market. You need to manage various stages of development from working with our design agencies, and our legal approvals, suppliers for implementation and breweries for production.
Q. How do you keep the process moving along?
A. It takes consistent and constant communication with everyone and having a clear process to get things done. Process is important. When I first started, we were managing packaging approvals by email. And that wasn’t working. So within the last 2 years, I’ve implemented a very clear online process for developing and commercializing packaging projects effectively and efficiently.
Q. What’s the best example of packaging and innovation you’ve seen recently in any industry?
A. Stackable wine– whoever came up with that should be in the Packaging Hall of Fame!
Q. What do you see as the most critical issue in packaging today?
A. There’s a lot of great design and products already out there. Therefore, it’s essential that your packaging stands out to your consumer in a unique and meaningful way. For me, packaging needs to be innovative and connect to a compelling consumer insight to be impactful.
Q. How do you view the role of technology in today’s packaging process?
A. It’s a key way for to spark interest and engage the shopper or consumer. I’m always looking for new technology that might enhance the connection of our brands with people. A good example is the Beers of Mexico cooler pack, where you open the pack, add ice – and you’re ready to go! And another example is the smart technology we are using in our Heineken summer promotional packaging where the labels offer an augmented reality experience connected to the Heineken online promotion.
Q. How far up the ladder do packaging discussions go at Heineken?
A. For Heineken USA, packaging is a favorite topic! Everyone has their opinions and advice including our most senior managers. And I listen to everyone’s point of view and take it into account in my final design recommendations. But in the end, we have a clear approval process with the brand team leads having the final approval on their respective brand designs
Ask the Chief Packaging Officer is a Q and A feature that explores the views of packaging leaders from CPGs, retail brands and pharmaceutical companies. They share their experience and their ideas about the current state and future evolution of packaging and offer insights about what the packaging leadership role can look like within the enterprise.