Germany: Eichbaum Brauerei apologizes for unintentionally offending Muslims

Privatbrauerei Eichbaum from Mannheim, Germany, has sparked public outrage on the internet. The local brewery unintentionally offended Muslims by printing Saudi Arabia's flag on bottle caps as part of a marketing campaign for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. The flag shows a horizontal sword and the Creed of Islam (Shahada) in Arabic letters above it with the wording: "There is no deity but God and Muhammad is His Messenger." Social media users noted that it was inappropriate to link the Islamic statement of faith on an alcoholic beverage because alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia and many Muslims abstain from drinking alcohol.

"We are not interested in religious or political comments — certainly not on our products. If we have unintentionally offended you, we sincerely apologize," Eichbaum said on Wednesday. After complaints proliferated, Eichbaum on Friday again expressed its regret and said it will stop the campaign and was working to remove the Saudi Arabia bottles from stores. “The discussion around the Saudi Arabian bottle caps took on a form that overstepped the boundaries of freedom of expression," Eichbaum wrote in its Friday post.

For many years the company has been printing the flags of all 32 participating teams of the FIFA World Cup on its bottle caps. As Saudi Arabia's national team did not qualify for the last 12 years, the problem did not occur before.

Privatbrauerei Eichbaum was mentioned for the first time in 1679. In 1971 the family owned brewery was sold to Henninger Bräu in Frankfurt/Main, one of the largest German breweries at that time. After Henninger was also sold in 1980 to Reemtsma, and again in 1987 to Gebr. März, Eichbaum became part of one of the largest brewing groups in Germany. In 1996 Gebr. März went bankrupt  and the group was split up. Henninger, Eichbaum as well as Freiberger Brauhaus and some other smaller companies were sold in 1998 to Dietmar Hopp, one of the founders and long-standing CEO of leading software company SAP.

Finally in 2010, Hopp sold Eichbaum in the context of a management buy-out to Technical Director Jochen Keilbach and family maltster Andreas Hiby-Durst as a silent partner. After selling his malting business to French agricultural group Soufflet and stepping down as CEO of the company, Hiby-Durst acts since March 2018 as Managing Director of Controlling of Eichbaum. (, 7.7.2017)

The brewery has a capacity of about 2 million hectoliters with a strong focus on export, predominantly to China. Since its reprivatization, the brewery has managed to rebuild a strong brand image in its local market in the south-west of Germany. 

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