The Heineken keg: more than just a pretty sketch

MMID is celebrating its 25th anniversary. To celebrate, every month we will ask one of our team members to select a project that to them symbolizes the last 25 years. Klaas Jan Veltman, with MMID from the early days, talks about the pragmatic way MMID approached the development of the BeerTender keg for Heineken.

Late 1999, MMID received a phone call from Heineken, who were looking for a suitable partner to help them with the development of a plastic keg. MMID won the pitch over some large, renowned agencies and was chosen to design the keg for the Heineken BeerTender, at that time a revolutionary beer dispensing system for the home. Packaging beer in plastic had never been done before. The Heineken project was a tremendous job for what was then still a small agency.

More than a good sketch

Klaas Jan: ˝Back then, I had just started working at MMID. The agency was still quite small and not equipped to handle such a large project, so we had scale up in a very short space of time. That was an exciting challenge for me. I have a background in civil engineering, and as an architect, I didn’t have experience in product development. There were so many secondary issues to take care of, that didn’t directly relate to the design itself. Suddenly it wasn’t just about making a great sketch or delivering solid CAD work. The Heineken project taught me product development is about much more than that. Drafting a set of demands, considering all the different stakeholders, building a network of specialized suppliers, testing, production cost, building prototypes. But, we also had to consider logistics, because how do you transport the kegs, or stack them in a warehouse? The project was immense and multi-faceted. My role was to coordinate everything that wasn’t being done by the designers. One day I had to brainstorm with a large group of Heineken managers about dollies and crates. Without my knowledge, people from several countries had flown in especially for this one session. Developing the keg taught me that organization is equally important as design. To successfully complete a project, you need to do a lot more than simply deliver a good design. That’s how I suddenly became a project manager.”

Just do it

˝Our approach was very pragmatic. Don’t overthink it, just do it. I remember driving to the brewery in Den Bosch with 25 prototypes in the trunk of my car. I had put a lot of effort into getting these models made within two weeks. Together with Albert Brans from Heineken, I placed the kegs on a conveyor belt in the factory, just to see for myself what route they would have to follow and if there were possible bottlenecks I could identify. For example, the kegs weren’t allowed to work their way up under the influence of belt movement and friction between the kegs. When the kegs did threaten to roll of the belt, I jumped up to save my expensive prototypes, prompting Albert to shout: ˝no, just keep filming!”. A lot has changed in 25 years, but MMID had maintained the same pragmatic approach. Just do it! “