It was thirty years ago that the Kőbánya Brewery became a shareholding company, it was 25 years ago that it took up the name Dreher Breweries and it will be five years this April that the Japanese Asahi Group Holding announced completing the acquisition of the company among other businesses in the region. On all these anniversaries, General Manager Gábor Békefi talks to Diplomacy&Trade about the challenges they face as well as the innovative ideas and sustainable operation that characterize Dreher Breweries Plc.
“We are a company with a history of almost 170 years during which many generations have passed on knowledge and traditions to each other, and through this, we want to bring the same Dreher knowledge and enthusiasm to our everyday work in a modern environment, in the 21st century. In other words, we want to build a bridge between tradition and modernity,” the General Manager points out. He adds that Dreher is a dominant player in the Hungarian beer market, in fact, a market leader and they try to act accordingly. “Our most important task is to create value, and within this we try to influence and shape trends in the beer market.”
The past two years have been difficult and challenging in the beer industry as well. As Gábor Békefi puts it, “one aspect was that we had to look after the health of our own colleagues, to ensure that they got through these two years in good health, and a series of measures were taken in-house to enable our colleagues to look after themselves and their families, while ensuring the continued operation of the brewery. The business challenge was that our company also had to deal with a huge loss of revenue through the closure of the catering channel, which came at the expense of profitability in 2020. Then, we were better prepared for 2021, which thus turned out much better.”
He sees the hospitality industry coming back to normal trends, although slower than expected and hoped. Also, the pandemic has had a huge impact on the supply chain situation in the world.
“As the catering industry was closed, some of the consumers moved to retail channels, and the demand for certain packaging suddenly increased. In the meantime, of course, part of the economy was shut down and the consequence of this imbalance was that there were supply problems with certain basic and packaging materials, and so for most of last year, we faced the challenge of how to keep the factory running and it took the heroic efforts of our colleagues to deal with unexpected situations,” he adds.
Another aspect of this global supply chain problem was that raw material prices started to rise at a very high, unusually high rate. A good example of this is that the price of aluminum rose by more than 40-50% last year, or the price increase for cereals was over 30%, which also had a negative impact on the financial management of the brewery. “Each of these situations is unusual, each is something that has not been part of our lives before, and each requires ad hoc quick fixes,” the General Manager notes.
The year 2021 got off to a strong start at Dreher Breweries in terms of product innovation, with the latest trend in alcoholic beverages, the Hard Seltzer, arriving straight from the US. Thanks to the commitment of Asahi Europe & International and Dreher Breweries to innovate and follow consumer trends, the beverage category, which sits between beers and traditional long drinks, was launched on the Hungarian market in March. Hard Seltzer is a transparent carbonated alcoholic beverage, typically flavored with hints of fruit where the desired alcohol and carbon dioxide levels are achieved through fermentation.
Another surprise of the spring was the launch of Kőbányai, a legend in the Hungarian beer market, previously only known in the form of a light lager, with a grapefruit-flavored 1.5% radler and a lemon-flavored non-alcoholic product. The launch of the latter is in line with Dreher Breweries' commitment to responsible consumption of alcohol, with 20% of its product portfolio to be non-alcoholic by 2030.
For the summer, Dreher Blueberry flavored beer is available on store shelves in a 0.5-liter metal can. In addition to the two types of hops used in production and the tart flavor of blueberries, this newest Dreher variant is characterized by a pleasant blueberry aroma. The market for flavored beers has been growing very dynamically for years, both in terms of volume and target audience.
After 2020, 2021 continued to focus on supporting local and small communities suffering from the negative COVID-19 impacts as well as the revitalization of community life and hospitality. In the spring, Dreher conducted representative research on 24 brands, which revealed that two-thirds of the country specifically missed local community events during the pandemic, and even more plan to attend one in the near future. Building on this, the non-alcoholic beer brand has launched a sponsorship program for local communities, supporting them to get back to life as soon as possible. Through the ‘Dreher 24 Actively Together’ competition, the brand provided, in the summer of 2021, over 20,000 non-alcoholic products through sponsorship to local community events that focused on sport and community entertainment.
“Our focus throughout the year was also to contribute to a successful reopening by providing a quality beer experience and make hospitality all about quality time spent together again. To this end, 200 bartenders in July, and 150 more by the end of August, were carefully trained in our nationwide Tap Quality Program, our initiative to promote a quality beer experience based on bartender expertise and preparation,” Gábor Békefi explains.
He adds that “in 2021, we continued to strive to ensure that the true beer experience is not just on the shelves of shops and in catering outlets, but also outside the four walls, with a focus on hygiene and safety. Few festivals were organized but we tried to provide our customers the direct and unique brand experience, which is best experienced at festivals. We were present with Dreher pop-up bars and Pilsner Urquell trucks at a 15-stop gastronomy event, among other places and we also organized several summer sampling events.”
Dreher closed the summer with a really exciting innovation, building a Beer Workshop, operating independently from the historic brewhouse of Dreher Breweries, a workshop for creative recipes and home to a new Hungarian brand. The first two beers of the hospitality-focused ANTL brand pay homage to the company's founder: the ANTL Vienna Style Lager is a modern interpretation of the beer style that earned Antal Dreher the name ‘King of Beer’ nearly two hundred years ago, and the ANTL English Style Summer Ale recalls his study trip to England, which inspired the subsequent sharing of knowledge at Dreher.
In the fall, Dreher again came up with something new: a unique streetwear capsule collection designed by the well-known Hungarian urban designer and graphic artist Imre Fork for the Brewery, the General Manager concludes.
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