Krombacher: a brand built on purity

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Krombacher is Germany’s best selling beer but is relatively un-known in the UK market. Ewan Turney visited the brewery to find out more about the brand looking to take on the UK market.

Felsquellwasser. It is not directly translatable but roughly speaking it means natural spring water and it is the base that Germany’s best selling lager is built upon.

Water of course is not only vital for the brewing process but in Krombacher’s case, the source also forms a major part of the brand’s marketing activity. Consumers tend to guess that the beautiful Krombacher lake is somewhere in New Zealand — but it is in fact in Germany — and the family brewer believes it perfectly displays the purity of the brand.

Krombacher is the number one Pils in Germany and the brewery, owned by the Schadeberg family, puts its success down to a “high level of consistency” and “sustainability”, which marketing director Uwe Reihs says is “deeply rooted in the German DNA of the brand”.

He says its brand leadership is “about high quality not only in pure definition of quality of product but in execution of marketing and distribution”.

Krombacher is keen to stress its heritage and the fact that it is so consistent. Reihs considers that if Krombacher was a car, it would be the reliable but high quality Volkswagon rather than something of high fashion like a Mercedes Benz.

It claims to not be influenced by other competitors. “Our brand philosophy is strictly inside, we really don’t look outside. We do not follow anyone. We are not influenced by anyone else.”

Krombacher has a strong focus on its homeland before international markets. “We are strictly focused on Germany and then we play abroad where it is a high quality niche,” says Reihs.

The German beer market is on a downward trend but is also highly regional. There are 16 regions all with their own breweries and styles with 1,344 breweries and 700 of those in Bavaria. Even in Cologne alone there are 25 different Kolsches.

Krombacher is now trying to crack Southern German market, with its own Weizen wheat beer. It is a hard ask convincing bavraians to drink a wheat beer from outside the region — and marketing will play a key role in convincing them to do so. Former German footballer Mehmet Scholl is fronting its campaign.

Krombacher has diversified from its main Pils brand to include several variants including non alcoholic beer (0.5%abv) and shandy. Its non-alcoholic beer has also been in double digit growth over the past few years. “Our source for growth is people who order soft drinks,” says Reihs. “If I can do sports I can drink this before after during. So we do huge samplings at sports events and marathons.”

The problem in bringing such a drink to the UK is that it can not be called alcohol free here because of its 0.5% abv.

But the traditionally inward looking brewery is now investigating the markets abroad and is targeting areas where Germans would traditionally go on holiday — Spain, Italy, Russia, US, Canada, and now UK.

The brand is currently stocked in around 150 outlets with Krombacher targeting the premium segment of the market for expansion. It intends to launch a support package to help licensees train their own teams in how to serve Krombacher with “flair and grace”.

As part of its marketing for the year, Krombacher will be showcasing its Pils, Weizen (wheat beer) and Dark lager products at the Publican’s Morning Advertiser Great British Pub Awards in September (Krombacher’s UK strategy).

“Krombacher beer is in substantial growth, albeit from a historic low base,” says UK sales and marketing representative Julian Penny.

“Our plan is to continue a targeted growth strategy supporting the premium position that the beer has in Germany.

“As the world-beer category continues to grow, we aim to tap into the interest shown by consumers by offering our partners and stockists a truly authentic world beer that is both brewed and number one in its home market.”

The brewer is also now focusing on sustainability and has just produced its first sustainability report with a plan to reduce its carbon footprint over the next five years. The sustainability report aims to build upon the success of its Rainforest campaign launched in 2002 where for every crate of Krombacher sold one square meter of rainforest would be saved for at least 100 years.

Krombacher range

Krombacher Pils

Krombacher Radler (shandy)

Krombacher Weizen (wheat beer)

Cab (beer and cola drink)

Krombacher Dark

Krombacher Alcohol Free