Unique spirits since 1892

When Waldemar Behn founded his beverage retail business in 1892, he did so not just for business reasons, but because he was born with a passion for high-quality beverages. Since the 18th century, the Behn family had lived in what is now the Hamburg district of Altona, which at the time belonged to Denmark.  Here they worked as wine merchants and later also ran the Ottensen steam beer brewery. Waldemar knew how to read the signs of the times, utilise his profound knowledge of the industry and put his entrepreneurial visions into practice. He became a role model for all later Behn generations, who continue to run the company, which was founded over 130 years ago, with vigour and enthusiasm.



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The beginning

The outbreak of cholera in Hamburg prevented Waldemar from returning to his hometown after completing his military service in Kiel. He instead stayed with relatives in Gettorf in Schleswig-Holstein. Construction of the Kaiser Wilhelm Kanal (now the Kiel Canal) had begun shortly beforehand in the immediate vicinity. Waldemar quickly recognised the opportunity for a lucrative business idea here, as there were thousands of thirsty workers along the construction site who needed to be provided with drinks. So he founded his company in 1892.

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The canal

Waldemar purchased beer from his parents' brewery in Ottensen, which from then on was served in the "wheat beer halls" he had built on the canal. As he saw that the construction of the canal would be completed at some point, he also extended the supply to the local catering trade. He also added non-alcoholic refreshments and spirits from his own production to his range. With the acquisition of the "Eckernförder Actienbrauerei" in 1907, Waldemar entered the brewing business and moved his business to Eckernförde. The former brewery served as the company headquarters until 1971. However, the actual brewery operations had to be shut down during the First World War and was never resumed.


The war times

Waldemar's entrepreneurial creativity ensured the company's survival during the First World War and the difficult years that followed. As a result, he was able to hand over to his son Richard a broad-based drinks trade that was well established in the region. From 1923, father and son ran the company together and had to overcome great challenges such as the depression, recession, inflation, the Third Reich and the Second World War. Surviving and getting by was the only goal for many years. The strong solidarity within the family and, above all, the energetic commitment of the Behn women, who ran the company while the men were doing their military service, made it possible to survive even these difficult times.

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The brand creativity

In 1952, Richard's son Harro, the 3rd generation, took over the company. Harro recognised the potential of the burgeoning idea of the brand and applied it consistently to his spirits. He focussed on creative brand concepts, automated production processes and supra-regional marketing. In this way, he became part of the German economic miracle of the 1950s. Brand successes such as "Kadeker Doppelkorn", "Behn-Whisky-Kirsch" and "Zitronenjette" contributed to regional, national and finally also their first international success. With "Küstennebel", Harro left the following generation a brand that was to become a spectacular success and the economic basis for new developments in 1985. 
In 1971, the company was relocated to a new site in the south of Eckernförde due to a lack of space on the former brewery site. 

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The two-headed leadership for growth

In the early 1980s, Harro transferred the management of the company to his sons Waldemar and Rüdiger on an equal footing. For the first time in the company's history, a "dual leadership" now managed the company's fortunes. This made it possible to focus on the two primary business areas of trade and production. Waldemar developed the beverage wholesale business (Behn Getränke) into the leading supplier to the catering trade between the Kiel Canal and the Danish border. Rüdiger was responsible for the production, development and distribution of the company's own spirits brands (Behn Spirituosen). Under the leadership of the Behn brothers, the Küstennebel brand developed by their father became a spectacular national success in 1985. This laid the foundation for further growth and marked the beginning of a new era in the company's history.

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1992 – Kleiner Feigling

With a brand concept that was as innovative as it was bold, the course for the company's future was completely reset in the year of its 100th anniversary. In 1992, Kleiner Feigling saw the light of day and began its success story, which continues unabated to this day. With the fig vodka liqueur in the party-suitable small bottle, the cheeky design and lots of group-dynamic game ideas and drinking ceremonies, Kleiner Feigling revolutionised the spirits market, which had been very solid up to that point. Today, Kleiner Feigling has become the flagship of the Behn company and is one of the best-known and most popular German brands. For generations of revellers, the name Kleiner Feigling has become synonymous with fun, good humour and quality.


1995 – Investments

Investing entrepreneurial success into new opportunities and growth has always been part of Behn's corporate practice. This applies to both business divisions. With a new, modern logistics centre in Eckernförde-Marienthal, the beverage wholesale business is further expanded and another distribution warehouse is opened in Flensburg. Thanks to an investment on the island of Sylt, Behn Getränke is able to further expand its delivery area 10 years later. As the market leader north of the Kiel Canal, Behn Getränke now supplies around 1,000 customers with all kinds of beverages, catering supplies and event equipment with its 24 delivery trucks.

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1999 – Dooley´s

After Kleiner Feigling, Dooley's Original Toffee Cream Liqueur is another brand innovation whose launch will have a decisive influence on the company's development. Dooley's, the first vodka-based cream liqueur, marks the start of a new chapter in the company's internationalisation. The world market is open for a new impulse in this important spirits category and Dooley's is successfully exported to over 60 countries.

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2000 – Austria

In order to firmly establish Kleiner Feigling in Austria with its comparable drinking culture, Behn takes over the renowned Salzburg family business Nannerl. A high level of catering expertise, an extensive range of traditional spirits specialities such as the Alpenschnaps brand and a wide range of high-quality foodstuffs make Nannerl an ideal addition to the Behn spirits range.


2003 – Space shortage

The dynamic growth of recent years has pushed the space capacities in the spirits sector to their limits. The company premises on Rendsburger Straße in Eckernförde, which have been in use since the 1970s, have been considerably extended and massively overbuilt time and again. Since 2003, the entrance to the newly built company headquarters has been located on Kadekerweg. A modern high-bay warehouse is inaugurated in 2015 as the current completion of the expansion measures. 

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2013 – DANZKA

In the 121st year of the company's existence, Behn acquires the renowned global brand DANZKA. The Scandinavian vodka with its distinctive aluminium bottle is one of the five leading premium vodkas in the global duty free and travel retail market. With this step, the company is consolidating its international commitment and positioning itself in the top league of this important market. 


2014 – Kleiner Feigling 2.0

22 years after its market launch, Kleiner Feigling has become a cult drink. The fig liqueur with vodka is still indispensable wherever there is a party. In 2014, Behn surprises its large fan community with new, additional varieties and successfully establishes a range of fruity and colourful flavours in the party spirits market. The brand is rejuvenated and taps into new target groups and occasions for use. To this day, the "Kleiner Feigling Runde" is continuously adapted to current flavour trends and supplemented with new varieties, which are initially introduced as limited special editions. Today, Kleiner Feigling is more colourful, cheekier and more varied than ever before.

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2017 – Anniversary

The Behn family business celebrates its 125th anniversary. This year, the family is holding a large celebratory programme to thank its loyal employees, customers and companions, without whom this success would not have been possible. The film "125 Years of BEHN - Unique Spirits" produced to mark the anniversary is a lasting reminder of this very special year.

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2020-2022 – Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is hitting both business areas with full force. Lockdowns, restaurant closures, event cancellations and the cessation of international travel have caused almost all sales channels to collapse. However, with entrepreneurial determination, great creativity and, last but not least, the selfless help of all employees, it is possible to save all jobs without exception. The pandemic period is used to massively expand the online business and add two more shops (Bolou Feine Tropfen and Wacholder-Express) to the company group.

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2023 – Grief

The much too early and unexpected death of Waldemar Behn deeply shocks the family and the entire company. With his passing, the town of Eckernförde has also lost one of its most important and charismatic sons. However, Waldemar and Rüdiger had already carefully and far-sightedly initiated the upcoming transition of the company to the 5th generation. In autumn 2023, Waldemar's daughter Lisa began her two-year, intensive trainee programme, which will take her through all areas of the company. Rüdiger's son Asmus followed her at the start of 2024. 

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2024 – Next generation

The future dual leadership of the 5th generation is on board! Lisa and Asmus have been familiar with the traditions, values and culture of the Behn family business since they were very young. In recent years, they have acquired numerous and varied specialist skills and gained professional experience that they will bring to their own family business in the future. As part of their two-year trainee programme, they will get to know the existing company processes in all departments and all employees in their respective fields of work. Other important topics for the new management duo will be further digitalisation and all-round sustainable management.

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Kleiner Feigling Die Dose & the future

Lisa and Asmus are also entering the company at the same time as we have just re-entered the RTD drinks market. Their foresighted grandfather Harro was already active in this sector in the 1960s. A new chapter will now open in 2024 with Kleiner Feigling Die Dose. An example of how Behn is exploiting the recognized market potential by combining proven strengths and innovative foresight. Today and in the future - no matter what opportunities and developments come our way: We are ready, full of drive and anticipation. 

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