Germany: The Bloodletting Continues at AB InBev’s Diebels Brewery

The bloodletting at AB InBev’s DiebelsBrewery in Issum, Germany, continues unabated. Following a radical streamlining of its product range back in April, which saw beloved beers like Dimix and the alcohol-free version, as well as the relatively new Diebels Alt Radler, pulled from the market, the company is now significantly reducing its production operations. According to a statement, this restructuring will impact roughly half of the approximately 200 employees at the company's site in Issum, North Rhine-Westphalia.

One of the brewery's two production lines will be shut down as part of this restructuring effort. Employees were informed of this decision on Wednesday, after the news had already made its way to the public through the press office of Anheuser-Busch InBev Deutschland.

The company has stated its commitment to ensuring that the downsizing process is carried out "as socially responsible and fair as possible." They also intend to collaborate closely with the employee council to find mutually agreeable solutions.

The measures taken are primarily aimed at “strengthening the network of four German breweries and preparing it for future challenges," according to the statement from AB InBev.

In 2001, Diebels was sold by its founding family to Interbrew, the predecessor of AB InBev, even before the sale of Beck's in Bremen. At that time, the popularity of the Altbier style was already on the decline. However, Diebels managed to largely buck this trend with its flagship brand, Diebels Alt, making it one of Germany's most successful beer brands. Additionally, in the early 2000s, the introduction of Dimix, a beer-based mixed drink featuring Altbier, became one of the most successful product launches in the German beer industry.

This success attracted the interest of the international brewing group, which was promoting a diverse portfolio of regional brands under the slogan "The World's Local Brewer." In 2001, AB InBev acquired 80% of the shares of the private brewery for 200 million DM (approximately EUR 100 million). However, with the sensational purchase of Brauerei Beck & Co in Bremen for 3.5 billion DM (approximately EUR 1.8 billion) later that year, Diebels gradually faded from the Belgians' focus.

A reduction in marketing budgets and the subsequent decline in sales marked the beginning of the decline for the Diebels brand and the Issum brewery. When there was no more profit to be made in Issum, AB InBev attempted to sell the brand and brewery in 2018, along with its sister brand Hasseröder and its brewery in Wernigerode, Germany. Hasseröder had suffered a similar fate under AB InBev's leadership and was a mere shadow of its former self by the time of the planned sale.

However, the sale fell through as AB InBev fell victim to a fraudster, (, 30.8.2018) leaving them unable to secure any reputable offers from other buyers. (, 20.03.2019) As a result, AB InBev has been holding onto both breweries to this day.

The recent announcement of workforce and production cuts may signal the final step before a permanent closure of the brewery, unless a miracle occurs – a far cry from the illustrious history of the world's largest brewing group.

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