Brana reflects the Haitian people
Having started as a soft drinks company, Brana became a small volume luxury brewery, in a country with very little beer culture. By the beginning the 1980s, the Madsen family had grown Brana as much as they could, and ended up partnering with Heineken, who in 1985 took 23% of the company and provided technical assistance and expertise. With their help, Brana grew exponentially under the management of the Madsens, until the 2010 earthquake occurred. The event damaged most of Brana’s infrastructure and demand dropped significantly as a result, leaving the Madsen family in need of large investments. Current CEO of Brana, Wietse Mutters recalls: “Heineken stepped in with a large first round of investments, to replace damaged and outdated equipment. After this, they contributed a second investment round, with aims at expansion. This shows real confidence in the market, and our commitment to it”.
Today, Prestige is one of the best-selling products in Haiti and abroad, and Brana is a role model employer. They not only offer healthcare but have built their own clinic for employees; they have pension funds, a high quality cafeteria, and the highest level of safety procedures. “We set international standards”, explains Mr. Mutters. “Everything here is the same as it would be in any large company in the U.S. or Europe, and this sets us apart within the country, so we are seen as role models within the business community”. That same dedication and maturity is applied to their star product, which today is the fastest growing brand in the Heineken U.S. portfolio. “Within the Americas Prestige always wins the taste score in blind taste tests. Others have changed their recipes to be more cost effective, but we haven’t changed it since we began. Ours is a real beer.” -says Mr. Mutters with confidence.
Throughout their 45 year history, Brana has seen multiple political and economic changes, supply shortages and climate struggles, amongst countless other challenges. However, for Mr. Mutters, the number one challenge is always the same: “Making beer is quite a challenge. The process needs a chain of different little factories all working together. If one area fails, the whole production comes to a halt”.
Brana has certainly overcome this challenge, time and time again, as they have made their way into the hearts of their consumers. As in the well-known case of Red Stripe, the beer known around the world for its Jamaican roots, Prestige has grown to be known abroad as the Haitian beer, which is a very strong selling point in places like Florida, where second and third generation Diaspora Haitians still remember Prestige as the beer from the old country. “Although the export market is not our priority, the relationship we have with Diaspora clients is very important to us, we want to keep their bond with the country, because we are counting on them to help rebuild the country in the future.” -adds Mr. Mutters.
Surprisingly, despite their success abroad, Brana’s focus is on the local market, because, as Mr. Mutters describes it, their vision is to be “the undisputed leader for thirst-quenching in every corner of Haiti, at every time”. This ambitious goal is still a challenge, for their coverage does not yet reach certain areas. However, it is part of the larger mission of working toward improving the whole community. In addition to investing in leadership programs and health advertisement, Brana is committed to stimulating the local economy. “We need sustainable economic growth”, explains Mr. Mutters. “We are addressing this by sourcing locally. It’s not 100% yet, because some things aren’t made here, but more and more we are trying to buy from local producers, or convince suppliers abroad to set up shops here”.
After 45 years of leading the beer industry in Haiti, Brana continues to strive for excellence, not just in their field, but setting an example for others to follow. “By being successful and investing more and more into the country, we inspire people, we let them know that progress is possible in this country. Haiti is full of opportunity, there are so many sectors of the market unexplored, we want more people to follow our lead. This is something Brana inspires”.