22 Jun 2009

News, truths and bollocks from Heineken

Those of you who know Czech and want to know a bit more about Czech beer should certainly visit Pivovary.info. Not only thre is an updated list of all the breweries in the Czech Republic regardless of size, but also, on their home page, you will find the section "Monitoring pivních zpráv" (monitoring beer news).

It is here where they other day I came across an interview with Jiří Daněk, one of the managers of Heineken.CZ.

Mr Daněk says that Heineken won't buy Staropramen (at least not for now). Currently the company is restructuring. They want to finish with the consolitadion of all their breweries under one company, Krušovice.  

When asked what effect is that going to have in the plans of the Dutch brewing concern to become #2 in the Czech market, Daněk admits that, although buying a brewing group would have been easier and faster, there is also the possibility of increasing the market share of the brands they now have.

I must agree with this. When Heineken bought Drinks Union last year their market share increased considerably, and was then only two percentage points below that of Staropramen's. Krušovice, the group's flagship brand, has been sort of revitalised with a redesing of the logo and a new advertising strategy. Investment in marketing also seems to have increased for both Starobrno and Zlatopramen. It is also left to be seen what effect the inminent withdrawal of AB-InBev will have on the Staropramen group marketwise.

The interviewer follows up with a very good question: "What other acquisition, besides Pivovary Staropramen, would be interesting for you? What would you say if K Brewing offered you their breweries? Many believe that K Brewing has been buying breweries on Heineken's behalf."

The answer is short and a tad worrying: Basically "No comments". We all know what this answer often means. Of course, it's still left to be seen what good can do a giant like Heineken buying six smallish regional breweries with a combined volume of less than 700 thousand hl a year.

The interesting thing here is that at no time they mention the group PMS (Pivovary Moravsko a Slezsko), the onwers of Litovel, Holba and Zubr (hardly the finest in Czech brewing) that has an interesting market share of, if I remember well, around 6%, or the still state owned Budvar, that has 13%.

The other day it was announced on the press the closing of two breweries belonging to Heineken, Kutná Hora and Hostan (Pivovar Znojmo). This didn't surprised anyone, really. Hostan had been already for quite some time on "life support", and Kutná Hora was the smallest brewery that belonged to the Drinks Union group. Daněk's explanation for this is as sincere as it is heartless, "it is clear that the profitability of a brewery that makes millions of hectolitres a year is different than that of one that makes 60 thousand". That's it, the decision of closing down two breweries with hundreds of years of history came from some accountant. The brands, promised Daněk, will keep on being brewed elsewhere, but, why bother?. It also seems that the future of Pivovar Louny isn't all that clear; Heineken hasn't decided yet what they will do with it.

Of course, being that this is an interview with a manager of a big multinational company, corporate bollocks are almost mandatory:

"Heineken nevaří žádná europiva" (Heineken doesn't brew any europivo) - Jiří Daněk, June, 2009.

Yeah, right, and I'm a Trappist monk.

Na Zdraví!

PS: If you want to read the full interview, you can find it here

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1 comment:

  1. I can't honestly say I am surprised by the "no comment" about buying K Brewing - it is something I wouldn't be overly shocked at happening. It would though of course be very sad to see yet more small Czech breweries in the hands of the multi-nationals, but I guess it is a case of welcome to capitalism, everyone has their price.

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