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Swinkels swallows De Molen

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One of our favourite brewers, Brouwerij de Molen in the Netherlands, has been bought out by Swinkels Family Brewers.

Brouwerij de Molen in Bodegraven, was started in 2004 at the historical windmill De Arkduif along the Oude Rijn river by Menno Olivier, who was joined in 2009 by John Brus. In 2017 the brewery produced a bit over 10,000 hectolitres. Swinkels already owned about 35% of de Molen.

It now is regularly rated as Top Brewer in the Netherlands by RateBeerBest. It is in the #6 position of the world rated by close to half a million RateBeerians world wide. Its Hemel & Aarde Bourbon BA is reated as the best Dutch beer.

Its annual Borefts festival attracts 7000 visitors and 24 guest breweries.

Swinkels Family Brewers, started in 1680 (officially 1719), is still owned by members of the Swinkels family and now has 1,600 workers, an annual turnover of €650 million and six brewery locations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ethiopia producing 7.5 million hectolitres of beer.

The company’s portfolio of 26 brands includes beers from Brewery Bavaria, De Koningshoeven, Brewery Palm, Brewery Rodenbach, Brewery De Hoorn, Brewery Habesha, Holland Malt and CereX.

Think La Trappe (De Koningshoeven), Cornet, Brugge Tripel, Estaminet, Bock, Hollandia, Kroon and Landerbrau beers, including the company’s signature Bavaria brand.

The innards of Swinkels

The beer company is managed by a board consisting of five Swinkels cousins, under the supervision of a supervisory board. The sole shareholder of Swinkels Family Brewers Holding NV is Ambrig BV. All shares of Ambrig BV are held by Stichting Administratiekantoor Ambrig.

Ambrig BV shares are held by the descendants of the Swinkels family, resulting in them indirectly holding the full economic interest in Swinkels Family Brewers.

The company has been on a steady growth plan, not only buying brewers, but also beer distribution and beer suppliers to get the chain under its control. Last year the company bought Bier&Co, one of the biggest importers of specialty beers in Europe.

Brewery Palm was bought in May 2016. In 2015 the company founded a local brewery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which has 8,000 local shareholders.

Subsidiary CereX produces natural malt extracts. Holland Malt produces malt.

As a result the company has grown from a turnover of €513 million in 2013 to €659 million in 2017, with beer accounting for €520 million.

Sustainability

It is an interesting company, not least for its venture into Ethiopia. Swinkels is attempting to use renewable energy as much as is possible. The company installed 1280 solar panels on the roof of its distribution centre in Lieshout.

It has set up a water cooperative to distribute treated water waste to companies such as Mars and Campina and to local farmers. The family also has plans to switch to geothermal energy to power the Lieshout brewery.

The 2017 annual report notes that it fell back a bit on sustainability in that year, but that the experience has taught the company to not bet “overly fixated” on transitioning to a 50% circular business model by 2020 and that it will take several years before it can start reaping the benefits of its investments.

Transition year

While sales were at record levels in 2017, growth was not at “expected levels”. The annual report has insight into some of the headwinds affecting brewers.

“Circumstances in our home market were not in our favour. On the one hand, this was down to increasing competition in the non-alcoholic beer segment. And on the other hand, we continued to face the same relentless pressure from supermarkets to sell at low prices and from on-trade customers to give discounts. Aside from that, we had to deal with several issues internationally that were beyond our control, including new government regulations that forced us to scale back our ambitions in parts of Africa and Asia. And we are feeling the impact of the upcoming Brexit, which has led to declining volume in the UK.”

During that year the company made investments at its Lieshout brewery, and upgraded Palm breweries. La Trappe’s performance  continues to exceed expectations. Cornet saw booming growth in 2017. It was also the year of the retail launch of the company special Swinckels’ beer.

In mid-2018, two new malt towers at Eemshaven became operational, boosting the malting plant’s capacity by  50%. The company has already sold the additional volume under contracts signed in 2017.

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