One of the first Danish companies in the former east Germany
During the 1980s, Bear Beer paved the way for a number of distribution agreements in Europe, and for Managing Director Bernhard Griese this was a clear sign of potential for international expansion. Even back then, the competition for the European beer market was tough, and required investment and long-term planning to stay ahead.
When the wall fell in 1989, Bernhard saw a unique opportunity to add an international impetus to the growth. Germany comprised a large and exciting market potential, but the geographical location was also perfect for expanding capacity so that the brewery could meet the rising demand for beer in the northern European market. That’s how Harboe became one of the first Danish companies to move into the former East Germany and to set up a manufacturing company there.
In 1991, the construction of a brand new brewery – Darguner Brauerei – was ready in Dargun in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in northeast Germany. The brewery was further extended in the years to come and towards 1997, capacity had doubled.
The journey further east
The fall of the wall also created opportunities further east. In the town of Haljala in northern Estonia, the farming collective Viru had been successfully brewing beer since 1975.
In 1991, the collective became the public limited company AS Viru Õlu, and the following year, Harboes bought into the company and became its biggest shareholder.
Investments were made in new technology to strengthen the quality and to streamline production, and after heavy reconstruction and expansion, at the end of 1992 the brewery was ready to contribute to the international production.
High growth and international expansion
Establishment outside Denmark’s borders marked the start of rapid international expansion and growth in business activities. New markets were cultivated, new exciting products were launched and new big contracts with international customers and distributors were signed in the years that followed.
When Harboes turned 100 years in 1983, the Group was turning over 100 million kroner a year. At the company’s next round birthday 25 years later in 2008, Harboes was turning over 1 billion kroner. Growth was largely due to Bernhard’s heavy focus on innovation, his targeted approach to new growth markets, and investments in ongoing optimisation and production upgrades, which would ensure that capacity followed demand and that the high quality was maintained.
Private label with impressive security of supply
Throughout the 1990s, Harboes’ position in the northern European market continued to solidify. Initially, it was in the private label market in northern Europe in particular where Harboes won significant market share.
The customers’ guaranteed supply of high quality beer and soft drinks – and the impressively high security of supply and great flexibility against fluctuating demand, was crucial to the consolidation of these markets in the years that followed.
Focus on growth markets and own brands
The last 10 years have seen an overall drop in beer consumption across Europe. Nevertheless, the demand for speciality beers, energy drinks and other speciality products has grown. Meanwhile economic growth and rising consumption has stimulated demand for imported brands in a number of growth markets in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South and Latin America.
We are therefore pursuing a strategy whereby we retain our position in the northern European market through a continued value-creating partnership with major retail chains. At the same time, we will continue to work on building awareness and momentum for our own brands across international markets and in close cooperation with international distributors and customers.
Focused sales organisation
The international sales and positioning of our own brands are managed from our international sales and marketing organisation, primarily located in Copenhagen. Here employees from more than 10 different countries have daily contact with distributors and business partners across the world.
Marketing efforts are supported by targeted marketing strategies, marketing support, point-of-sales materials and brand manuals for our key brands.
Social media is an important channel in the international marketing of Harboes' brands. On Facebook, Bear Bear has over 20,000 followers from all over the world.
Bear Beer – popular all over the world
Bear Beer is our leading and most popular international brand and comprises a wide range of beers. Bear Beer is marketed in a wide number of international markets, not least in South America and Asia, where Bear Beer has the highest growth.
In 2018, Bear Beer won the award for being the brand in China with the biggest development potential. The prize was awarded at the annual Chengdu Food and Spirits Fair in Beijing, and today Bear Beer is number ten on the list of imported beer brands in China’s leading internet distributor of fast-moving consumer goods.