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Niche positions in a saturated market

  • 2003-07-24
The rest, for their part, will have to fight to keep their corner of the Baltic beer market.
"Smaller companies don't have resources to be flexible with prices," said Grislis. Barring the much-feared invasion from the East, "nothing will change for them," he said. "They have their own niche."
As market positions solidified over the years each brewery's has been forced to define its niche and come up with creative ways to maintain it.
One of the most interesting Baltic breweries is Latvia's Agrofirma Tervetes, which, as the name suggests, sits on a farm. Brewers working there pride themselves on their homegrown barely and malt that together produce a truly delectable beer.
Bauskas adheres to classical brewing methods that require 60 to 90 days for maturation– as opposed to 10–15 days for most European beers. Located just outside Riga, Bauskas keeps its veteran 77-year-old brewer on staff in order to guarantee top quality.
Cesu announced in June that it would invest 3 million euros in constructing a new facility that will allow the brewer to double output capacity, and the ambitious Livu Alus wants to build its own malt house.
Squeezed by Saku and A.LeCoq, Parnu Brewery has been able to win the hearts and palates of Estonia's resort capital and keep its humble 4 percent market share. But after buying out minority owners this spring, the brewer's new shareholder has plans to improve beer quality and overall output.
Two mid-size Latvian breweries, Lacplesis and Cesu, have managed to overcome their low production capacities by having several of their brand names made abroad. This has allowed them to better adapt to the seasonal fluctuations that define the beer market.
International branding, in fact, has caught on in recent years. Svyturys has begun producing Carlsberg in Klaipeda, and Aldaris is brewing Baltika, Russia's most popular beer, in Riga.
To ensure that the trading channels have two-way traffic, these same producers are trying to reach out to foreign markets. Svyturys has been exporting to North America and the United Kingdom, and Saku is exporting to EU countries. Kalnapilis, meanwhile, is hoping to gain entrance to the massive Russian market through the Kaliningrad exclave. Which calls to mind an old business management rule of thumb: the best defense is a good offense. And just maybe Kalnapilis' strategy is one more Baltic brewers living in the shadow of the East should consider adopting.