Oettinger, one of the largest brewing groups in Germany, will close one of its four breweries in Germany at the end of 2022. The production and logistics of the 1.3 million hectoliter brewery in Gotha will be relocated to the group's other locations, the company announced at a works meeting today. 196 employees are expected to lose their jobs. Only 24 are allowed to stay.
The company said in a statement it is reacting to the "negative development of the sales volume in the beer market in recent years and is repositioning itself for the future".
Oettinger was known in the past for its streamlined production and excellent logistics, as well as forgoing sales support and marketing of any kind. This allowed the company to sell their beer at discount prices with still decent margins. The company also had a strong export and license business. Since 2008, Oettinger beer was produced under license in Russia and since 2011 also in other Eastern Euopean countries.
In the last decade, the competition in the shrinking German beer market has become much more intense. Oettinger found itself increasingly squeezed between no-name discount beer brands from below and premium beer brands at discount prices from above. (inside.beer, 26.11.2019)
The export and licensing business has also been hampered by the COVID-19 turmoil and war in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia.
On top of that, the owner family broke up after the unexpected and sudden death of the Oettinger heir and managing director Dirk Kollmar in May 2014 at the age of only 50. Dirk had favored the site in Gotha which was bought shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1991 and had transferred more and more management functions from the company’s seat in the Bavarian village of Oettingen to the city in Thuringia. After his death, a dispute broke out between his mother Ingrid Kollmar and his sister Pia Kollmar on the one hand and his widow Astrid Kollmar and their two sons on the other.
The matter was finally brought to court and in October 2017, both sides could agree on an arbitration, which concluded that the Bavarian branch of the family with Ingrid Kollmar and her daughter Pia Kollmar got back about 75 percent of the company’s shares, while the Thuringian branch with Astrid Kollmar and her two sons were left with the remaining 25 percent. (inside.beer, 6.10.2017) Finally in 2019, Pia and Ingrid Kollmar managed to buy out her sister- respective daughter-in-law and her two sons and regained full control of the brewing group. (inside.beer, 17.5.2019)
At this point at the latest, it was clear to everyone involved that Gotha would lose its strong position within the beer group. The train that Dirk Kollmar had directed from Oettingen towards Gotha was now reversed in direction. The closure of the Gotha brewing site is finally the logical last chapter of the long story, also in view of falling sales of the overall group.
However, the move still came as a surprise because Oettinger celebrated last year its 30th anniversary in Gotha and invested about EUR 2.5 million into a new palletizing system for cans and into the renovation of the warehouses.
Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow called the process on Twitter an "incredible scandal". According to him, the brewery in Gotha is “a well-managed company, with over 220 well-paid jobs, economically sound, is making a profit and mainly produces [environmentally friendly] returnable beverages. Now they want to generate more returns with disposable drinks. Destroy the company and the environment.”
"We were very surprised by the announcement of the closure of the brewery," said Jens Löbel, managing director of the food and beverages trade union in Thuringia. The union and the works council would examine the plans promptly and submit a counter-proposal. "Management mistakes of the last few years should be ironed out with even bigger mistakes. The workers and their families are the ones who suffer.”