Alexandru Nomicos (Bergenbier): “We are constantly expanding our portfolio to meet the new trends on the market”

Newsroom 25/04/2023 | 13:56

In February, Bergenbier S.A., part of the Molson Coors group, launched two products with 0.0% alcohol in the premium segment. Staropramen 0.0 and Stella Artois 0.0 strengthen the company’s portfolio, which in recent years has expanded both the in the alcohol-free zone and beyond beer, through beer and juice mixes.

BR sat down with Alexandru Nomicos, finance director Bergenbier S.A., and found out more details about the business move, as well the company’s activities during the last years and the plans for 2023, the trends in the Romanian market, the local beer consumer, etc.

By Romanita Oprea


How was 2022 for the company in terms of revenue and launches?

For Bergenbier S.A., 2022 has been both challenging and unpredictable in terms of fiscal and economic environment. The high rate of inflation has affected the beer industry overall, with latest data showing a market drop in volumes of 5%. We’ve been through unprecedented shocks which impacted multiple other categories, yet we tried to navigate through this storm by adjusting our plans and leveraging our strengths. We maintained focus on supporting our people, keeping costs under control, and delivering products at maximum standards and quality, with a price as affordable as possible for our customers. We performed in line with the goals set in terms of turnover but let’s not forget that we are talking about declining volumes in the beer category, and the turnover was positively influenced by price increases caused by overwhelming inflation. In 2022, we launched a new flavor Orange and Lemon for Fresh, our product in the beer mixes segment. All in all, we overcame a difficult year with joint resilience and ambition, and despite a potentially as demanding 2023, we will continue to invest in the business and serve our consumers.

What is the project that you were the most involved in and why?

My strong belief is that success is built alongside people. All launches we planned, all consumer promotions we ran, all internal or external projects we led, were possible thanks to the entire Bergenbier team. In terms of big projects, we are founders and active players within the Deposit Return System, a major country endeavor that will accelerate the sustainability direction we are all engaged in. We are financially invested, just like other producers within the beverages industry, in the operations run by RetuRo, the DRS administrator, to achieve the recyclability targets. We are collaborating very closely with all parties, including the Government, to prioritize sustainability in the region. The goal is for this project to come to fruition in November this year.

Were you impacted by the pandemic and its implications? If so, how did you adapt?

We are talking about unchartered waters for three years now and the pandemic was certainly the first domino piece. For us, the main objective was to keep our colleagues safe. We did everything we could to keep the sales force safe, our colleagues that were day by day next to the customers. We increased sanitary measures inside Ploiești Brewery, and we had no interruption in the supply chain. The HoReCa segment was highly impacted, and it also affected us and beer industry alike.

We stayed very close to our distribution partners and offered them the support they needed in these unprecedented times. Of course, we adjusted our strategy and our focus shifted towards Modern Trade and Traditional Off Trade which performed well during lockdown. Moreover, we increased the frequency in our financial planning, developed a new approach for cash management, considering all the variables coming from this exceptional period.

After the pandemic we faced an energy crisis, war in Ukraine, which increased industry production costs significantly. This translated into higher prices on the shelf in 2022, complemented by a material 5% decline in market volumes compared to prior year. We know unpredictability has become the new normal and we will try to manage all these hardships, while keeping our people, customers, and consumers at the center of everything we do.

What are your main goals for 2023?

I think the social-economic challenges will very likely continue in 2023. I do not believe inflation will come down near the levels we were used to, and commodity prices will remain elevated. We will concentrate on portfolio expansion, better positioning on the premium segment, and strengthening our presence through our engine-brand Bergenbier. We have ambitious commercial plans, and we are working intensively, multi-functionally towards such objectives.

What are the trends that you foresee in the industry and why?

On beer types, we see that lager beers are and will continue to represent the number 1 choice for the Romanian consumer. According to Brewers of Romania, the non-alcoholic sub-category registered a spectacular growth in 2022, surpassing a 5% market share. As per the same source, specialties segment holds 1% of the market, showing a slight increase compared to the previous year, while beer mixes and flavored alcoholic beers have claimed 0.5% of the market. The new generation of adult consumers are dictating trends in the beer industry, they now look for 0.0% alcohol beers and they are also open to try beer and juice mixes. We foresee this trend going upward in the following years. We are constantly expanding our portfolio to meet the new trends on the market.

Which ones do you intend to tackle and how?

I see Bergenbier S.A. already riding the wave. We have now one of the strongest 0.0% portfolios, with Stella Artois and Staropramen making their new entries this year in the 0.0% terrain. We also have a great performer in the non-alcohol beer and juice mixes segment: Fresh. It has already 4 available flavors, with a new one launched just recently: Mango and Passion Fruit. This product is doing very well amongst clients, consumers and we will continue to expand in those areas where we see traction and potential.

You started with force this year by introducing in your portfolio two products with 0.0% alcohol in the premium segment. What determined you to do it now? Who is their main target?

It’s been a tradition to start the year with launches. Stella Artois and Staropramen, two of the strongest brands on the market, have made their entries in the non-alcoholic segment. We are tackling portfolio diversification and following our path of promoting responsible consumption at any time of the day.

Staropramen 0.0 has a special production method, ensuring the same distinct and savory taste as the alcoholic version. It addresses consumers who do not have to make any kind of compromise when it comes to the refreshing taste of beer with 0.0% alcohol. Stella Artois 0.0 replaces the non-alcoholic version of the brand in our portfolio. It has a refined taste, suitable for meals with family and friends.

The two products not only address different types of consumers, but also expand the consumption occasions, making them strong players in the premium segment.

How would you characterize the Romanian beer consumer? Is he any different than other Eastern Europeans?

Almost 94% of the beer consumed in Romania is blonde lager beer, with Non-Alcoholic, beer and juice mixes gaining momentum during the last years. If we look at packaging, PET has dropped constantly in the last years, and it’s under 50% now. The Romanian beer consumer has 2 characteristics: loyal towards some brands, but also looking for something new, thus the need to offer a diversified portfolio. The past decade of prosperity nurtured a more exigent consumer profile, accustomed with high-quality products. Steep financial concerns led the consumer towards products which provide good value for money, without compromising on quality. Functional benefits such as taste, experience are crucial drivers in the Romanian market. Compared to other layers, they dominate and contribute to a brand’s equity by almost 50%, alongside innovation and attractiveness attributes.

And yes, the Eastern Europeans beer consumers have many similarities in terms of preferred type of beer and consumption behaviors.

What is your main competition on the market right now and what do you do differently?

We are focusing on our own ambition and, within that, two of our main objectives are to lead the premium portfolio and to strengthen our core position. We look for consumer needs, trends, and shifts in the market. Sometimes the only competition you need is yourself and we are targeting what we can do better for our clients and consumers.  Romanian market has potential, and we believe our role is to be an active player within this journey, offering high quality products in a sustainable fashion.

How will you communicate these two new products?

We have started rolling out the new 0.0% alcohol products in all trading channels, be it Modern Trade or Traditional Trade. We are also tackling a 360 degrees marketing campaign, with TVC, in-store activations, and digital assets.

Why do you believe that the 0.0% alcohol alternatives market is only going to expand?

The segment is in continuous expansion. We have new generation of adult consumers looking for alcohol-free versions of their favorite brands. Social factors play an important role here, young adults seeking to expand their consumption occasions. Taste, experience, as I stated before are crucial nowadays. All of this gives us the chance to offer a large range of products with zero compromises in terms of taste and experience. Bergenbier S.A. certainly has the upper hand, and we will seize this opportunity to grow and expand.

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