Bionade looks to world domination with help from Dr. Oetker

The hip German softdrink Bionade has been bought out by the food giant Dr. Oetker in order to facilitate a major international expansion of the brand.

Bionade looks to world domination with help from Dr. Oetker
Photo: DPA

The Radeberger Group, owned by Dr. Oetker, has acquired 51 percent of the Franconia-based organically brewed beverage maker. Created as an attempt to save the family enterprise’s brewery, Bionade has since grown to be the fourth most popular soft drink in Germany.

Announcing the deal in Hamburg on Friday, Bionade chief executive Peter Kowalsky said a major partner was need for the expansion, which would take time and money.

With the previous majority shareholder, Egon Schindel Holding, this had not been possible, he said.

“We didn’t want Bionade to remain some kind of small niche soft drink,” Kowalsky said.

Radeberger reportedly bought 70 percent of the shares held by the former majority stakeholder the Schindel Group. The deal was made possible by a narrow vote of the former majority holders, said Kowalsky.

The other 30 percent of those shares remained in the hands of Kowalsky and his brother Stephan. He refused to comment on the sale price. According to a report in Manager-Magazin, the figure was about €20 million.

According to Albert Christmann, spokesman for the Radeberger group, the deal would still need to be approved by the anti-trust agency. However he did not expect this to be a problem.

Bionade had grown one of Germany’s leading soft drinks, said Kowalsky. But with the planned international expansion, it would need to hold its own against giants such as Coca Cola and Carlsberg and therefore needed the bigger partner.

“We simply have certain fears that we’d become a generic product in many markets.”

He did not go into details about the planned expansion, but he said Bionade was successfully testing its products currently in European cities such as Brussels, Vienna, Zurich and Barcelona. Quick success was not expected, he said.

The establishment of a new brand such as Bionade would take at least five years, he said. The choice of Radeberger as new partner was also made with this in mind.

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Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus