Mention the word "Eichhof" in Switzerland and most people think of beer, since the company owns Switzerland's largest independent brewery. But Eichhof has more to commend it than just beer; it also happens to be a world leader in colour technology.
Eichhof chief executive, Werner Dubach, is usually more than happy to explain how the group has increased its market share in a country where beer consumption has been declining.
But at this year's annual Eichhof presentation in Lucerne, Dubach and his colleagues were focusing on more than just beer. Grabbing the limelight was the firm's United States subsidiary, Datacolor International.
Dubach readily admits that explaining the activities of Datacolor International, is not that simple. "It's not as easy to understand as a bottle of beer," he says.
Datacolor, which has its headquarters at Lawrenceville in New Jersey, is the world's leading supplier of instruments, software and systems to communicate and manage colour in industry.
"We measure colour and allow people to reformulate or match that colour on a repetitive basis regardless of where they want that colour measured and formulated," explains Datacolor's chief executive, David Crozier.
"As an example you can measure a colour in New York City and have it matched in Switzerland and know that you're going to get exactly the same colour," he told swissinfo.
The importance of colour in industry should not be underestimated, says Crozier. "I don't think anybody wants to go into a store and see five red sweaters and have five different shades of red. They want to know that they can go in, find a quality product and purchase it," he says.
Datacolor manufacture instruments called spectrophotometers to measure colour in a wide range of applications, for example inks and packaging, paint, paper plastics and textiles.
They can see colour much better than the human eye which, although very good, cannot match the machine.
"Where we fail with an eye is the ability to look at a colour, come back the next day and say: 'Is that the same yellow or the same blue?' We don't have good colour memory."
"The advantage of our instruments and software is that it allows you to represent that colour day after day," he adds.
Datacolor sees the world of colour matching moving at great speed to the digital world and has during the past 12 months bought two young companies with new technology offering potential for growth in the consumer market.
The products of the ColorVision and Horses companies are aimed at making accurate colour matching from the computer monitor to the printer a reality, at prices consumers can afford.
With ColorVision's new Monitor Spyder, monitors can be calibrated to reflect colours accurately and the enclosed software helps users obtain consistent and predictable colours from an original photograph to the finished print.
As Crozier sees it, colour measurement is no longer exclusive to industry gurus.
"We certainly see growth in the new technology and in the consumer market. I think we'll continue to see consolidation on the textile and on the paint side and that's why we're very excited about the ColourVision and Horses product lines that we offer," he says.
Datacolor's activities last year generated turnover of SFr94.9 million ($57.17 million), whereas the Eichhof group as a whole had sales of SFr276.3 million.
Asked whether Datacolor checks on the colour of Eichhof beer, Crozier told swissinfo "No, we've never tried to measure the colour of their beer but we do have a South African brewery that uses our equipment to check theirs."
As Eichhof chief executive Werner Dubach put it, "The colour of our beers is of course important but we need less sophisticated equipment to check that. And, of course, it's the taste that's really important and with that we're quite happy."
by Robert Brookes