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IMD and Lombard Odier recognize BAVARIA for resilience, adaptability and innovation

Beer-maker wins prestigious family business award
October 2015

From left: Albert Jan Thomassen, Stijn Swinkels, Jan-Renier Swinkels, Fabienne Swinkels, Frank Swinkels, and Peer Swinkels.


Bavaria, one of the oldest privately held and run companies in the Netherlands, was awarded the 20th annual IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award at the 26th Summit of the Family Business Network International (FBN-I) in Montreux, Switzerland.

Awarded by IMD, a top-ranked global business school, and by Lombard Odier, one of the main private banks in Europe, this prize is regarded by many as the most prestigious for successful family businesses. It recognizes the way in which such firms unite family interests with those of the business and combine tradition and innovation while demonstrating a clear commitment to their local community. This year, the Award is celebrating its 20th anniversary and pays tribute to a long list of prestigious recipients. It renews its commitment to recognizing and documenting exceptional family business performance, enhancing its role as a platform for family businesses to exchange best practices, analyze the economic situation and learn from each other. Previous winners include world-class companies such as LEGO, Ayala Corporation, S.C. Johnson, Hermès, Barilla, Yazaki Corporation, Merck, Firmenich and Bel Group.

This year’s winner is Bavaria, the second largest brewery in The Netherlands which was founded before 1680 and has been owned and run by the Swinkels family since 1764. A global brewer with roots in local ground, the company is in its seventh generation of family ownership and leadership. It had revenues of $503.9 million in 2014, operates in more than 120 countries and employs approximately 1000 people.

This year’s winner is unique in finding solutions as a mid-sized company that has been operating in the fiercely competitive beverages industry. The Swinkels family has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to be resilient and innovative in finding solutions to adapt their business model to changing industry and market structures. Their visionary family leadership included not only the business dimension but has identified ways to solve the classic family business dilemmas and be flexible in defining structures that would strengthen the family business identity over time and invest into preparing the next generations for getting involved. “The task of each generation is to find out what’s happening in society and adapt to it. It is a matter of staying ‘fresh,’” explained J.-R. Swinkels (7th generation, CEO). Today, a team of 7th generation cousins’ is leading the operative business and has developed original marketing strategies and successful niche market strategies to compete with global multibillion dollar competitors – at national and international level. Outstanding product and process innovation management capabilities have been combined to pursue ambitious growth activities in emerging and frontier markets, blended with a strong commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Thierry Lombard, former Managing Partner of Lombard Odier, a seventh-generation family firm, and former Chairman of the FBN-I, said: “For the last 20 years, it has been our responsibility with this award to recognize and congratulate the laureates for having shown, by their outstanding contribution, the role of families and family businesses in our economies. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award, we are particularly delighted how well this is symbolized by the firm Bavaria and to be able to honor this family and all previous winners and families, who will recognize themselves in the personality, strengths and qualities of Bavaria.”

IMD President Dominique Turpin said: “As a global leader in family business research and education, IMD understands the challenges of running a family business for over 240 years. It takes not only innovative thinking but also adaptability and a strong generational vision to lead the business over generations. Bavaria is clearly a flagbearer for family business excellence. It operates in fiercely competitive markets and has successfully challenged multibillion dollar multinationals, in its home market as well as globally. As a product brand, it has capitalized on its ability to emotionally connect to its consumers. Bavaria also leveraged its heritage and authenticity to set new standards on sustainability, creating a true legacy in the world of fast moving consumer goods. For all these reasons, it truly deserves to be recognized as the winner of this year’s IMD-Lombard Odier Global Family Business Award.”

The family business is the oldest and most widespread business model throughout the world. A major source of revenue, jobs and tax contributions, family businesses are key players in the economic system and often serve as models for long-term growth, profitability, stability and survival through periods of crisis.

The award trophy is fashioned out of crystal and bears the shape of a tree – a symbol of family businesses. It was generously donated by the Scheufele family from Chopard and was crafted in Geneva – a further example of a successful family business in the global arena.