The end of the 19th century, a time of peace, was unique in the economic prosperity in German history. We still refer to this chapter as the Wilhelminian period, during which almost the whole of the German industrial backbone was established. Chances in the market were identified and grasped fervently with an euphoric and overwhelming entrepreneurial impetus. In this atmosphere, Waldemar Behn had his “Start-Up” using the same name in 1892. Since then, subsequent Behn generations have also undergone and survived their own Wilhelminian periods.
The family originated from the Hamburg-Altona area of Ottensen (formerly part of the Danish crown) and during the 18th century traded in wine. Later, the Ottensen Steam Beer Brewery was established.
1892 Waldemar Behn uses the construction of the Kaiser-Wilhelm- Canal as an opportunity to implement his industry expertise and entrepreneurial visions.
The outbreak of cholera in 1892 was responsible for the founding of a new Behn undertaking. Following military service, Waldemar Behn, who was no longer able to return to his family in Hamburg-Altona due to the epidemic, moved to relations in Gettorf in Schleswig Holstein. There, due to force of circumstance, he chanced upon a prospective business deal locally.
Waldemar’s business idea focused on the construction work between Kiel and Brunsbüttel, for the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Canal (today known as the Kiel – Canal), which had just commenced. The supply of drinks of every sort, for the many thousands of thirsty workers along 100 km for many years – an extremely tempting business vision for someone with a knowledge of this industry!
So far, so good, he bought the beer from his father and from then on delivered it to the hard-working canal workers as an uplifting refreshment. This took place in self- assembled “Drinking halls” or in cooperation with local taverns. Waldemar Behn soon extended his assortment of home brewed, alcohol-free drinks and spirits sold to land lords within a radius reached with a horse and cart. This prosperous cooperation with the restaurateurs and local land lords in north Germany continues today. BEHN, as a leading drinks distributor, dominates the market between the Kiel – Canal and the Danish border, with over 1 000 customers and an equity stake on the island of Sylt.
1907 acquires Waldemar Behn the Eckernförder Actienbrauerei and added again a brewery to the family business.
In 1907, Waldemar Behn seized the opportunity to return to the brewing of beer. He acquired the Eckernförde Brewery, so that the company established its seat in the Baltic Sea resort of Eckernförde. However, in 1916 in the midst of the confusion of the First World War, as with many of the breweries at the time, it was closed, partly disassembled and never went into operation again.
The world wars pose major challenges and require sacrifice. Richard Behn directs the company through these difficult times. It is thanks to the strong cohesion of the whole family that these difficult times could be mastered.
Waldemar Behn succeeded in handing the company on to his son Richard Behn, as a successful, widely established, drinks supplier. The latter survived the ensuing, increasingly difficult times of depression, recession, inflation, the Third Reich and the Second World War. Survival at all costs and getting through these years was the slogan. This was only possible in the face of tremendous difficulties due to the united efforts of the family. During the Second World War his eldest son, again a Waldemar died in battle.
The 50s brought a new Wilhelminian phase to Harro Behn who took over the family business in the third generation. He recognized the potential of brand building and made the BEHN company part of the German economic miracle.
The Wilhelminian phase of his brother, Harro, began in the fifties. The third generation of the company was underway. Above all Harro recognized the potential of brand-name products, which he applied with great creativity, to spirits. As a result, an automatic production and nationwide marketing of high quality brand spirits ensued. The company grew quickly and developed into a modest, but typical example of the German economic miracle.
An important, regional brand name in the form of “Kadeker Doppelkorn” evolved, followed by BEHN Whisky- Kirsch as a national brand and later “Zitronen Jette”, an international marketing success. Harro Behn was often way ahead of the times in the area of non-alcoholic drinks. During the seventies, he developed “Kinder Limonade” and became involved in the production of Bitter Drinks, under the name of “Wright’s”.
The 4th generation Behn takes the lead in the 80’s . The new ” double peak ” allows optimal focusing and paves the way for the internationality.
At the beginning of the 80s, Harro Behn laid his company jointly into the hands of his sons Waldemar and Rüdiger, who are still in charge today. This double spearhead enabled even more emphasis on the increasingly specialized area of the wholesale drinks trade, led by Waldemar Behn and the marketing of spirits, led by Rüdiger.
Küstennebel, developed by their father, grew into a spectacular national marketing success for the fourth generation in 1985 and established the economic basis for the further growth of what is today a highly sound company. With such a string to its bow, Behn steered forward to a new Wilhelminian phase, that of 1992, the 100th Jubilee year and one of unexpected market success.
Kleiner Feigling revolutionized the entire spirits market.
Kleiner Feigling revolutionized the whole spririts’ market. It was small, practical, tasty and cheeky, playful and endlessly sociable. With a brand name and colour choice to match, Feigling turned the market upside down, a product which was hitherto unknown, employing a cheeky, fruity affront, which accommodated perfectly the needs of a happy, party-loving society and could only have originated from a background of the easygoing determination of a family company.
Today Kleiner Feigling is still Behn’s figurehead and has become one of the most well-known and popular brands in Germany, with millions of followers. Not only does it update a success story going back over two decades, but its continuous domination compared with numerous competitors in a category conceived by Kleiner Feigling itself, confirms the timelessness of this unique marketing concept.
Reinvestment is a maxim of the family company and provides further growth.
Typical for Behn, investment leads to entrepreneurial success, affording new chances and growth – in all areas. Due to intense growth, Behn has bolstered the wholesale drinks trade since 1995 with a modern, logistically advantageous new location in Eckernförde, as well as constructive investment in Flensburg and on the island of Sylt. Fair business dealing on the market enabled Behn to take over drinks businesses in the region, thus satisfactorily integrating them into the main company.
The Feigling success story and drinking culture has reached Austria with the acquisition of Nannerl, a Salzburg family company, which has spread out to a new location, with increased gastronomic competence, high quality foods and as a manufacturer of distinctive speciality spirits, sold nationally and internationally.
Dooley´s Original Cream Liqueur is the key to the company’s internationalization.
For the 2000 Millenium, Behn once again came out with an innovation, without doubt a milestone in the company’s history. Dooley’s Toffee Cream Liqueur was the first of its kind based on vodka, pitching Behn on to the world market with a key to the company’s internationalization. Over 60 markets in the world rejoice over this long-awaited spirit product category. Dooley’s has won every comparison test worldwide, and has received the highest number of awards as a cream spirit of all times.
Due to its phenomenal expansion, Behn reached a capacity limit in the Rendsburgerstraße in Eckernförde, the seat of the firm since the 70s. This site had been constantly rebuilt and expanded. Since 2003, the new entrance to the firm’s headquarters in in the Kadeker Weg.
2013 marks another milestone in the BEHN company history. The acquisition of the worldwide known brand DANZKA Vodka strengthens the international presence and opens up further possibilities in the growing global travel retail market.
In 2013, the 121st year since the founding of the company, the new Behn era evolved in precisely the spirit of its creator. Behn acquired DANZKA VODKA, a world trademark and landed with one fell swoop in the top leagues of international Duty Free/Travel Retail markets, where DANZKA VODKA counts as one of the five top premium vodkas. New challenges and chances worldwide ensued with this acquisition.