Freya has perhaps been a victim of its own success, with increasing demand for its products necessitating investment in a new production line dedicated to returnable bottles. Although the business is profitable, sales were not spectacular, and with Duvel's focus on the speciality beer sector it was unwilling to invest in the necessary equipment, especially as it would have required relocating the company's entire production facility.
As a result, Duvel, which acquired 70 per cent of Freya in 2000, sahring the management with the Sterkens family holding, agreed to sell the brand name and customer base of Freya to Konings, a company already present in the Belgian drinks market with a wide range of products, including fruit juice, lemonade, nectars, energy drinks, tea drinks, sports drinks, distilled and fermented drinks, ciders & perries, coolers, liqueurs and wine.
It will therefore be Konings which will invest in the new packaging line, which should come on stream in January 2005.
The Freya brand is sold throughout Belgium in convenience stores, school canteens and the wider foodservice sector, and has a major presence in the returnable bottle sector - a sector of great interest to Konings which was keen to build on its solid own label fruit juice business and its own Trudo brand operations.
The company had been investigating whether there was likely to be sufficient volume growth to justify the installation of a new bottling line, and the acquisition of the Freya business will give it just the market presence it needs to build an even greater presence for returnable bottles, moving perhaps into more mainstream retail channels.
Duvel said that the deal guaranteed supplies to existing Freya customers, and also gave them the opportunity to chose from a broader range of products in the longer term.
Freya accounted for just 2.44 per cent of Duvel's total group sales of €69.5 million in 2003, compared to 72.8 per cent for the eponymous beer brand. The company did not give actual sales figures for Freya, but said that the brand had grown its turnover by 5.2 per cent last year.
Freya juices come in 10 different varieties: freshly pressed apple juice, apple & pear, apple & cherry, apple & red beetroot, tropical apple, apple & orange, orange, grapefruit, tomato and vegetable juice.