21 October 2022

Capacity constraints: Heineken closes Brand brewery in the Netherlands

The Netherlands | Heineken’s cost-cutters had their way again. After Belgium’s Affligem brewery, the Brand brewery in Wijlre is the next to be shuttered. Beer production will be shifted to Heineken’s macro breweries in Zoeterwoude and Den Bosch in 2024. 48 jobs will be lost. This was announced on 26 September.

Parts of the current plant will be knocked down, as Heineken will build a CO2-neutral microbrewery, which will open in spring of 2023 with a capacity of a few thousand hl beer. The microbrewery shall serve as Brand’s new physical home.

Heineken took great care to justify the move in an effort not to hurt Brand’s sales. The brewer insisted that there is growth in Brand lager and in Brand's specialty beers. But the site is too small, it said, and, besides, the brewery does not live up to Heineken’s standards of sustainable production.

Many wonder: How can the brewery (1 million hl capacity) be too small for Brand’s requirements if there was room for the production of Lagunitas’ beers too?

The commentariat pounced

The news did not go down well in the Netherlands, to put it mildly. As commented Jan-Paul Rutten, director of Gulpener Brewery, Brand’s local competitor: “The real reason is unfortunately underexposed. We are dealing with a multinational company that has a clear goal in mind: to improve efficiency and increase profits.”

One might add: Corporate strategists have learnt that consumers care less and less about where a beer is produced. When the Affligem brewery in Opwijk was closed in August, production was moved to Heineken’s brewery in Alken, some 100 km away, and to France, where most of Affligem’s beers are consumed.

Jobs offered – in Belgium

The same holds true for Brand. Why maintain a not-so cost-effective brewery in Wijlre, if you can brew its beers in Zoeterwoude (220 km) or Den Bosch (135 km)? As to the 48 employees, who will lose their jobs – they can apply for positions in Den Bosch or in Alken. Heineken’s main brewery in Belgium is only 30 km away from Wijlre.

Once Brand is gone, the Netherlands will have lost one of its oldest breweries. Beer was already being brewed in Wijlre around 1420. The current brewery dates from the mid-eighteenth century. In 1871, it was taken over by the Brand family, who started brewing lager in 1903. Brand was acquired by Heineken in 1989.

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