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Boxer nips at heels of big brewers

Boxer's Pierre Keller in the Romanel brewery


With less than one per cent of the beer market in Switzerland, Boxer, one of the last remaining independent beer makers in Switzerland, is hardly a threat to the big brewers.

Set-up in 1960 in the town of Romanel in canton Vaud by Albert Heusser, who named the brewer after his favourite breed of dog, Boxer prides itself on remaining outside the brewing empires controlled by Denmark's Carlsberg, Britain's Allied Domecq, and other major players.

Today Boxer supplies speciality beers to clients across Switzerland, pulling in annual sales revenue of SFr5 million ($2.9million).

"We are brewing eight different types of beer at the moment," explains Pierre Keller, who has been at the helm since 1997, the year a group of investors took over. "We basically do what the 'biggies' don't want to do any more as we try to meet the different tastes of the consumers," says Keller, who holds a 10 per cent stake in Boxer.

The company is 55 per cent owned by another independent Swiss brewer, Löwengarten. However both groups remain autonomous in many ways, Keller says.

Workers double output

Boxer, which employs about 20 people at its Romanel brewery, has managed over the last four years to double its output, and now produces some 20,000 hectolitres of beer per year.

Boxer intends to double its beer production to 40,000 hectolitres over the next two to three years, while increasing its marketing efforts in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

One beer has eight per cent alcohol, by volume. "We also have one with hemp and one that is light with just four per cent alcohol," said Keller. "That means we have a beer for every taste."

Feldschöschen Hürlimann, now controlled by Carlsberg, remains the most popular beer supplier in the country - but Keller still believes that small is beautiful.

"Since we are small we are very accessible and people can come and talk to us and see us," explained Keller. "Beer consumers like to know where the beer comes from and like to have a partner they can talk to if they have questions."

As part of that effort the company has recently agreed to sponsor the Bern-based Young Boys football team. Boxer's small size allowed the company to strike the deal within a matter of days after hearing about the opportunity.

"We have become the supplier of beer in the new stadium in Neufeld for the next three years while the old stadium in Wankdorf is being rebuilt," added Keller. "We got this opportunity because we could react within two to three days after being approached by the organisers."

by Tom O'Brien


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