Germany: Radeberger to close brewery in Cologne

Radeberger Group, part of family-owned Oetker Group and the largest brewing group in Germany, today announced to close its brewery in Cologne Germany. The so-called House of Cologne Brewing Tradition, that can trace its roots back to 1296, is one of the 14 brewing sites, which Radeberger operates throughout the country and is the remains of several formerly independent acting breweries with brands like Sion, Gilden, Peters, Küppers, Sester, Kurfürsten and Dom.

In a two-step process, Radeberger will transfer production of its brands to Cölner Hofbräu P. Josef Früh, a privately-owned brewery with a brewing site in Feldkassel, in the north of Cologne. Früh is the second largest brewery in the Cologne area with a yearly production of about 400,000 hl of beer only surpassed by Privat-Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf with an estimated production of more than 600,000 hl. Although once the largest of all Cologne breweries, Radeberger’s Cologne unit, is now said to produce less than Früh.

In a first step, Radeberger Gruppe, will relocate the filling of returnable bottles and the related logistics from its site in Cologne Mülheim to Früh by the end of 2020. In a second step, draught beer filling and the production will follow until fall 2021.

Radeberger “will subsequently give up its brewery location in Cologne Mülheim, but will initially retain its headquarters there with its marketing units,” told the company in a press statement today. “The production and logistics location of Cölner Hofbräu Früh is predestined for this step due to its space and technical locations and in return will be upgraded in the coming months with sustainable investments in order to be able to absorb the additional volumes,” the press statement goes on.

Although Radeberger has another brewery in Dortmund, just 100 km apart from Cologne, the company cannot transfer production of its beer to this site due to peculiarities of the Cologne beer market. Since 1997, the term Kölsch has a protected geographical indication (PGI) within the European Union, indicating that only a beer that is made within 50 km/30 miles of the city of Köln and brewed according to the Kölsch Konvention as defined by the members of the Cologne Brewery Association is allowed to be called like this.

Dr. Niels Lorenz, CEO of the Radeberger Group, which negotiated this solution for its subsidiary, says: "If several breweries in the same city have production sites of a similar size, each with high investment and maintenance requirements, then one cannot only, but one must almost inevitably think pragmatically about a future-oriented joint use of these plants".

The two breweries will cooperate closely in the areas of production, bottling and logistics, but will remain in fair competition in all other aspects of brand management and distribution. "We will continue on our successful path in brand management and sales of our Früh brand,” says Alexander Rolff, personally liable partner of Früh. “As close as we may be in partnership by working together in selected areas, we will clearly continue to compete for market share and consumer preference.” And Georg Schäfer, Managing Director of Radeberger’s Cologne unit, adds: "Although we will have a common production, we will march separately. Because one thing is clear: in our market every brewer fights for every customer, every restaurant, every centimetre.”

The statement concludes: “The contract between the two cooperation partners, which deliberately waives previously known and preferred purchase and investment models, was signed on April 10, 2019: It takes into account the requirements and self-conception of two independent family businesses - and provides the basis for the expansion of the brewery location in Feldkassel, which is now ready to start.”

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