Stefaan Anckaert, Birra del Borgo: the emergency sharpens your wits

E-commerce, a rigorous focus on product, the identity of Italian beer: the company’s commitment in the words of its GM

27-04-2020
Stefaan Anckaert, managing director at Birra del

Stefaan Anckaert, managing director at Birra del Borgo

Stefaan Anckaert is the managing director at Birra del Borgo, part of Ab InBev. Inside the Belgian multinational he has covered commercial roles connected with sales, direct distribution and marketing. «I first met Leonardo Di Vincenzo in 2016», he says, «while I was the sales director for the Ho.Re.Ca. channel in Italy. Speaking with Leonardo I grew passionate about the Birra del Borgo project and discovered the world of high-quality Italian beer». Here’s an interview with him.

How do you live this period of emergency?
It’s impossible to hide the fact that we’re suffering too. The absence of socialization, of relationships and experiences, which are essential for an industry like ours, are putting us to the test. We’re strongly connected with Ho.Re.Ca. and food with Osteria di Birra del Borgo and our Banconi which we have closed regardless of the just indication given by the government, because health and security come first. In order not to lose contact with people, we had to find some alternative solutions fast: we launched a delivery service for L'Osteria and Bancone in Piazza Bologna and launched an e-commerce platform. Of course, we-re working a lot in the off trade, with the distribution in supermarkets. 

Is it true that consumption in Italy, over the past month, has grown? If so, in which way, and are there some peculiarities?
Yes, consumption has grown, by a good 20%, also thanks to Lisa, our lager with a well-defined character, Italian in terms of name and flavour. In March, the emergency slowed the growth, especially because of the strong crisis experienced by the Ho.Re.Ca. channel, with the closure of bars and restaurants. We will be able to make assessments at the end of the year, but we’re doing whatever possible to start again fast when the moment will come, especially in the Ho.Re.Ca. channel, which is our core business. So as not to stop, and be close to our consumers, we also launched Lisa in the 50 cl bottle, focusing for now on distribution in supermarkets and large food retail chains.

Lisa, a popular lager from Birra del Borgo

Lisa, a popular lager from Birra del Borgo

Perle ai Porci, Oyster Stout available from May 

Perle ai Porci, Oyster Stout available from May 

You launched La Bottega, an e-commerce platform. What are the first results?
For e-commerce and delivery from some of our restaurants we tried to adapt to the new needs of consumers. We launched the platform on the 18th of March and in a few weeks, we’ve already received some 500 orders. On the dedicated website consumers can find our complete range, at very accessible prices. The bundles are doing very well, they’re a selection of bottles chosen by us, and the Easter Pack, meant for Easter, with beers paired with cheeses. The most popular beer is Lisa, followed by Reale Extra, which has a more complex flavour. This says a lot about the desires of consumers at this time: less mainstream and more elegance. In May, we will launch on the platform this year’s Perle ai Porci, now in fermentation. 

Beer in Italy: what trends do you see for the near future?
Italian beer is finally finding its identity, so much so that people are finally speaking of an “Italian style". Italian beer and high quality are two concepts that are more and more often connected. And Italian style is more and more linked to the territory and to local ingredients, and it will be even more so after this emergency. People will rediscover drinking at home, they will find intelligent alternatives to social drinking, focusing on product and quality. A more meditative way of drinking based on tasting and discovery. They will look for less banal, more interesting beers, with a stronger character. Take our Lisa, for example.

You have chosen to reinforce the partnership with Identità Golose. What is the link between high quality beer and fine dining? What are your expectations?
We could speak of goals that go in two directions: those that have to do with strengthening the synergy with restaurants, which has always been important in the development of our projects, and those connected with the development of new synergies and the creation of fertile exchanges and relations. As for the connection between beer and fine dining, we prefer to call it high quality cuisine, and thus embrace also traditional cuisine, made of gestures passed on, and of territory. At the Identità Golose 2020 congress we will bring something very new giving voice to a crucial element of Italian identity: the Trattoria. Rarely considered by critics, admired in the world but considered a lesser reality compared to fine dining. The paradox is that today many great chefs base themselves on those traditions, and many young chefs open contemporary trattorias. Birra del Borgo sees a future in today’s trattoria. Rethinking beer and traditions for us means this too: acknowledging the social, cultural and economic changes in our country and projecting them into the future, enhancing them and making them current, and therefore more accessible.

A detail of Bottega, the new online shop of Birra del Borgo

A detail of Bottega, the new online shop of Birra del Borgo

Luca Pezzetta, Osteria di Birra del Borgo

Luca Pezzetta, Osteria di Birra del Borgo

The theme of the congress is “The Sense of Responsibility”.
Yes, it’s a theme that sums up well the message we’ve always tried to spread: ‘Promoting the culture of Beer in Italy’. To spread this concept over the years we’ve looked for new ways of giving value to beer in Italy, we have reinterpreted the culture of beer in light of the changes that have taken place in Italy’s gastronomic culture, we’ve worked with great chefs and invested in training, first with Accademia Niko Romito, then with the Giunti Academy School of management and with the birth in Italy of the first Master in "Beer Business Management". By preserving our identity, we have fostered a convergence of the restaurant and beer industry focusing on quality, research and taste. For Birra del Borgo the partnership with Identità Golose is a natural prosecution of the road we took years ago, which is meant to channel innovative thoughts for the entire beer industry, to give value to Italian beer.

The emergency imposes to find new creative way to sell and buy. What can you anticipate as to what you will do in the next few months, in Italy and in other markets?
For sure online sales will continue to grow. People will rediscover drinking beer at home and even those who have never bought online will start to do so. And then it will be time for some thoughts, to rediscover ingredients, and traditional and local dishes. Accessible prices, people and identity will make the difference. We will focus on people a lot, on Luca Pezzetta for the Osteria and on the strong identity of Birra del Borgo in general. This moment will also be a chance to rediscover Italy, a country that has always had its strength and its foundation in conviviality and in spending time together. And then we will need to find a new way of spending time together because, even though I’m not Italian, I cannot imagine Italy without the values that make it a unique place to visit, made of meetings and extraordinary people.


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