Bavaria produces and markets four products: beer, malt, soft drinks and cereal extracts.
Bavaria is the second largest brewery in the Netherlands after Heineken. The annual production is around six million hectolitres of beer. Most of the beer is still brewed in Lieshout, special and seasonal beers are produced in Berkel-Enschot. Bavaria products are also brewed locally in South Africa and Russia. The breweries produce a range of standard and low alcohol pale lagers under a variety of brand names including Bavaria and Hollandia. The best-known global product is Bavaria Premium Pils lager. The brewery also makes a popular alcohol-free beer, Bavaria 0.0%; malts are also available in apple, caramel, lemon and karkadé flavours. It is also contracted to make a number of European supermarket own-brand Dutch lagers, including Albert Heijn Pilsener. Bavaria makes a special beer, called Bavaria 8.6 and two seasonal beers. Bavaria also distributes the La Trappe beers. Sales of beer count for three quarters of Bavaria's total sales.
A subsidiary of Bavaria, Holland Malt B.V., owns two malt houses, one in Lieshout and one in Eemshaven. The annual capacity totals 245,000 tons of malt, a third of which is used by Bavaria itself. One third of the production is sold to third parties in Europe and one third goes to countries outside Europe, mainly to Latin America, South America and Japan. Sales of malt contribute to around fifteen percent of Bavaria sales.
The company produces approximately 500,000 hectoliters of soft drinks per annum, of which almost 95 percent as private label products. Bavaria itself uses the brand names 3ES and B52. The soft drink activities account for almost ten percent of total sales.
CereX B.V., a subsidiary of Bavaria, produces and markets "cereal extracts". These extracts are used in the food and beverage industry. Production takes place in Lieshout. Specific information on this activity is not given by Bavaria.
The history of the Bavaria brewery can be traced back to 1680. In that year Dirk Vereijken owned a brewery at the Kerkdijk (Church Dike Road) in Lieshout, proof of which can be found in an account of the municipal tax records of that year. For three consecutive generations this brewery was handed down from father to daughter and after that for seven generations from father to son. Vereijken, Van Moorsel and Moorrees were the family names attached to this brewery from 1680 till 1773. Since then the brewers from Lieshout belong to the Swinkels family.
For centuries the brewery only produced beer for the local market. It was not until the fourth generation of Swinkels took charge of the brewery that production was expanded. Jan Swinkels, born in 1851, started distribution to the city of Helmond at 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Lieshout in 1890. Sales rose from 988 hectolitres of beer in 1890 to 1,900 hectolitres in 1900. After the First World War distribution was expanded to other towns and villages in North Brabant. By 1923 output had increased to 3,325 hectolitres of beer. By that time the original brewery buildings had become too small so a larger brewery was built in Lieshout. On that occasion three brothers of the fifth generation of Swinkels took over leadership, and adopted the brand name Bavaria. This name indicated that the new plant was a bottom fermentation brewery, producing pale lager (Bavarian) beer.
Distribution was broadened to include Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, the four largest cities of the Netherlands. In 1933 the brewery added its own bottling plant, which produced 2,000 bottles an hour. By 1940 a malt house was built. The output of the brewery at the beginning of the Second World War was approximately 40,000 hectoliters per annum, with an almost nationwide coverage in distribution.
In 1955 the company started manufacturing soft drinks under the brand name 3-ES. This name refers to the three Swinkels brothers of the fifth generation. In the postwar years beer consumption in the Netherlands had decreased to a very low level. It took Bavaria until 1959 to recover in terms of sales volume. In the sixties Bavaria doubled its production capacity.
From 1973 onwards the company took an interest in the exporting business, first of all in Southern Europe. In the late seventies Bavaria introduced alcohol-free beer, that was exported to Islamic countries. By 1981 the total volume reached 1,000,000 hectoliters of beer. From the nineties onwards the business expanded into exclusive and seasonal beers. Moreover, Bavaria started to adapt its drinks to individual markets. Consequently, export grew to cover 120 countries.
In November 2016 Bavaria acquired Latis Imports, establishing a dedicated US presence in one of its "five key regions".
In 1999, the Trappist Koningshoeven Abbey, located in Berkel-Enschot, entered into an agreement with Bavaria to take over the daily operations of the monks' brewery within the abbey. As a result of this agreement the Abbey did not display the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo, though did label the beer as "Trappistenbier". In 2005, the logo was again displayed on bottles after the monks took a more active role in the brewery.
The brewery, which operates as "De Koningshoeven NV", is a subsidiary of the Bavaria Brewery, whilst the buildings and equipment remain in the ownership of the abbey. The monks remain the ultimate authority on the brewing process while Bavaria manages the commercial business.
On April 18, 2007 The European commission imposed punitive fines on three major European breweries for operating a price fixing cartel in the Netherlands. The three were Heineken (€219.3m), Grolsch (€31.65m) and Bavaria (€22.85m). A fourth participant in the cartel, InBev (formerly Interbrew), escaped without a penalty because it provided "decisive information" about the cartel's operations between 1996 and 1999, as well as about others in the EU market. These four brewers had controlled 95% of the Dutch market, with Heineken claiming a half and the three others 15% each.
EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said she was "very disappointed" that the collusion took place at the very highest (boardroom) level. She stated, "This is simply unacceptable: that major beer suppliers colluded to up prices and to carve up markets among themselves. She added, "Heineken, Grolsch, Bavaria and InBev tried to cover their tracks by using code names and abbreviations for secret meetings to carve up the market for beer sold to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and cafes. The price fixing extended to cheaper own-brand labels and rebates for bars.
At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Bavaria Brewery got up to 1,000 fans of the Dutch national football team to don orange overalls, called Leeuwenhosen, with the brewery's logo on them. The Leeuwenhosen were given away with the purchase of Bavaria Brewery products prior to the World Cup. However the action was deemed to be an act of ambush marketing by FIFA as Bavaria, which was not a corporate sponsor, had not paid any money to be an official event partner. With pre-warning from FIFA officials, staff at the game versus Ivory Coast asked fans to remove the overalls upon entrance to the game and provided orange replacement shorts without any logo.
During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, 36 women clad in orange miniskirts went to the Netherlands vs Denmark match in Johannesburg, using tickets supplied at least in part by British ITV pundit and ex-footballer Robbie Earle. Tournament officials evicted the group en masse from the stadium upon which they were arrested and held by the Police. They were released upon talks between the management of Bavaria and FIFA.Antoon Swinkels & Peter Zwaal: A biography of the brewery in Lieshout and the family that owns it. Lieshout, Bavaria, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9731100-3-6