A few years ago, the liquor company Berentzen – one of Germany’s biggest and best-known schnapps producers – was suffering from a nasty hangover.
During the 1990s, its alcoholic beverages were a must at parties.
But in 2008, the celebration of Berentzen’s 250th anniversary was canceled because the dismal balance sheet showing €11 million ($12.1 million) in losses offered no reason to rejoice.
Since then, the company, based in Emsland in northern Germany, has gone through a far-reaching transformation, evolving from distillery to juice producer.
It was a painful step. The story of the company’s founding, shrouded in legend and myth, was always rooted in alcohol.
In the mid-18th century, Johann Bernhard Berentzen operated a small distillery, selling products with names such as “Kloar” or “Strohgelb” to thirsty customers. The schnapps business flourished, and in 1898 the company registered one of the first German liquors to be branded, “Berenzten from the Barrel.”
Some 70 years later, Berentzen won the Pepsi-Cola franchise for Germany. It was a new source of revenue, but alcoholic beverages remained the firm’s focus.
But that changed in 1976 when brothers Friedrich and Hans Berentzen decided to mix things up a little. They took the revolutionary step of mixing schnapps with apple juice, creating “Berentzen Apple,” a tipple that became popular world-wide, especially in Britain, the U.S. and Japan.