If you have ever visited Sweden, Norway or Finland, you will know that alcoholic drinks don’t come cheap there. It is therefore difficult to launch Belgian speciality beers with a high alcohol content in these markets. Difficult, but not impossible, Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck said to itself. “Our Filou can currently be found in around 270 supermarkets in Sweden. A real first!” Benjamin Viaene, Export Manager at Vanhonsebrouck, takes us along on his journey to conquer Scandinavia.
Just like its neighbouring countries Norway and Finland, Swedenis one of the most difficult countries to get a foothold in for the beer sector. “These countries are very protective in terms of both politics and culture. This also affects our sector, because for heavy beers like the ones we brew, you have to get approval from a government-owned company,” Benjamin explains. In Sweden, this government-owned company is called Systembolaget.
“This company issues tenders which any brewery may participate in. All participating beers are tasted and judged by segment.” To participate, it is important to have a dedicated local partner who understands and acknowledges the values of your brewery and prioritises your beer brands. Enter Two Fat Pigs.
Tva Feta Grisar
“Tva Feta Grisar, which translates as Two Fat Pigs, started out as a micro brewery. Meanwhile the company has grown into a fully-fledged importer of high-quality alcohol and speciality beers.” Contrary to what the company name suggests, the team is anything but lazy. It is made up of a handful of Swedes and a Flemish expat.
“They contacted us to ask if we were interested in joining a new success story in Sweden with our beer. Our first challenge was a tender from Systembolaget, with the government looking for a Belgian strong blond beer in 33-cl cans.” Enter Filou.
“In the tasting session, our Filou was awarded the top score: 25 out of 25. A real first!
But for Filou to take part in the tender, we had some work to do. “At that point, Filou was not available in 33-cl cans. The design also had to change, as our partner told us that the current Filou look was too youthful and playful for the Swedish government. In just a few months, our sales, marketing, back office, production and management quickly rolled up their sleeves to meet the challenge,” Benjamin explains.
Once everything was in place, it was time for the Systembolaget buyers to taste and judge our beer. “In the tasting session our Filou was awarded the top score: 25 out of 25. A real first! Our first tender was an instant hit, resulting in placements in about 270 supermarkts across Sweden.”
However, our Swedish adventure did not end with the 33-cl Filou cans. “I recently travelled to Gothenborg to meet our partner. He praised our flexible operations and approach. We exchanged a lot of ideas because in the future we want to continue to work together for the further roll-out of our speciality beers in the Swedish retail markets and in hotels & catering establishments.”
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