“Bavaria is clearly a flag bearer for family business excellence. As a product brand, it has capitalized on its ability to emotionally connect to its consumers. Bavaria also leveraged its heritage and authenticity to set new standards on sustainability, creating a true legacy in the world of fast moving consumer goods,” was IMD President Dominique Turpin’s motivation on why Bavaria was recognized as the winner of this year’s IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award.
Bavaria stands out with its unique capabilities in finding solutions as a mid-sized company that has been operating in the fiercely competitive beverages industry. The Swinkels family has demonstrated the capacity to be resilient and innovative in finding solutions to adapt their business model to changing industry and market structures. The visionary leadership not only includes the business dimension, but also identifies ways to solve the classic family business dilemmas.
The flexibility in defining structures that strengthen the business over time and invest into preparing the next generations for getting involved is a remarkable quality of the current generation. Today, a team of 7th generation cousins’ is leading the second largest brewery in The Netherlands which was founded before 1680 and has been owned and run by the Swinkels family since 1764. In 2014 it generated $503.9 million revenues, and today it operates in more than 120 countries, while employing approximately 1000 people.
“The task of each generation is to find out what’s happening in society and adapt to it. It is a matter of staying ‘fresh’, ” explained Jan-Renier Swinkels (7th generation, CEO).
In 2012, IMD already published a case on Bavaria written by IMD professor of entrepreneurship and finance Benoit Leleux and Finch & Beak' managing partner Jan van der Kaaij. It presents a paradoxical scope of the way the family business that has existed for over 300 years, and demonstrates Bavaria’s unorthodox shared leadership model combined with a entrepreneurial management style. The key question in the award winning case is how the brand can be “revitalized” on the one hand, and can stay true to its identity and core values on the other. By cleverly combining innovation, guerrilla marketing and sustainability with its brand values, Bavaria was very successful in refreshing the brand and keeping the family shareholders happy. Meanwhile the company made headlines with its Bavaria Babes that set the new norm in guerrilla marketing around the globe.
The IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award is an initiative of the top-ranked global business school IMD, and by Lombard Odier, one of the main private banks in Europe, this prize is regarded by many as the most prestigious for successful family businesses. It recognizes the way in which such firms unite family interests with those of the business and combine tradition and innovation while demonstrating a clear commitment to their local community. This year, the Award is celebrating its 20th anniversary and pays tribute to a long list of prestigious recipients. It renews its commitment to recognizing and documenting exceptional family business performance, enhancing its role as a platform for family businesses to exchange best practices, analyze the economic situation and learn from each other. Previous winners include world-class companies such as LEGO, Ayala Corporation, S.C. Johnson, Hermès, Barilla, Yazaki Corporation, Merck, Firmenich and Bel Group.