Budějovický Budvar had a record year

The Czech state-owned brewer is expanding but wants legal protection over secrets

State-owned brewery Budějovický Budvar sold a record 1.61 million hectoliters of beer last year, the most in company's 120 year history. Audited financial figures will be released in the summer. Over the past 11 years the brewery has increased sales by 40 percent and last year was up 0.8 percent. In 2006, production was at 1.15 million hectoliters.

Production reached it maximum in 2015 and large increases are not possible under existing conditions. The company stated its sales could have been higher but it had been turning down orders during the summer peak as it lacked the capacity to fill them.

Exports helped the company's figures substantially, though exact export figures were not revealed.

“Our most important product is the light lager Budweiser Budvar, which accounted for 60 percent of the sales volume,” Budvar spokesman Petr Samec said.

Further growth will only be possible once a Kč 2 billion investment in production and logistics is completed in 2020. The state has invested Kč 750 million this year. After expansion, the brewery should be able to reach 2 million hectoliters.

Already completed projects include new pressurized transfer tanks with a capacity of 10,000 hectoliters. Other projects include creating a third bottling line, expanding an automated warehouse and other infrastructure, and technological improvements.

Budvar is currently seeking an exemption on a new law that requires state entities to disclose their contracts, as it will force the company to reveal trade secrets. If the brewery is not exempted, Budvar economic director Petr Žáček says the company will not be able to remain competitive. Other breweries do not have to disclose their contracts as they are privately owned. “Let me use a historical parallel: when once a town or fortress were unconquerable, it usually took someone from the inside to open the gate. The MPs hold the key to Budvar in their hands and naturally, it is up to them whether they open the gate defended for several generations wide open for our competitors,” Žáček said previously.

The brewery is now temporarily led by Žáček after director Jiří Boček stepped down last year. The Ministry of Agriculture will select a new director from three candidates in late March or early April.

Budvar exports beer to 76 countries. The brewery, which was founded April 15, 1895, is the last Czech brewery owned by the state.

One reason the state has held onto it is to protect the name Budweiser, which have been caught up in international disputes with Anheuser-Busch InBev, which also uses those names. Lawsuits have been ongoing since 1907 and have involved over 100 court cases worldwide.

Budvar is made in České Budějovice, South Bohemia. The historical German name of the city is Budweis, and the name Budweiser means something from Budweis. Beer has been made in České Budějovice since the 13th century.

Budvar has been largely successful in its claims to the name in the European Union. In some other markets, including the United States, Budvar beer is sold as Czechvar.

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