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Swedish whisky maker eyes stock market listing

Sweden's Mackmyra Svensk Whisky has announced its plans to list on the stock market later this year, adding that it is now looking for a CFO to help accomplish the task.

Swedish whisky maker eyes stock market listing

“Distillery construction is going really well and we expect production to get underway this year. The construction is already higher than the treetops,” Mackmyra founder and CEO Magnus Dandanell said in a statement on Sunday.

The company produced Sweden’s first malt whisky 13 years ago in Valbo about 10 kilometres southwest of Gävle in eastern Sweden.

The company was established in 1999 and now produces the equivalent of 600,000 flasks of whisky each year.

The first years were devoted to small batches and many experiments to find the perfect Swedish malt whisky. By 2001, the brand had perfected two recipes: one elegant and fruity, the other with a distinctively Swedish smokiness.

Both are sold in Systembolaget, as well as duty-free shops and selected overseas markets.

“With the new distillery in operation, we will more than triple our production capacity, which is needed to launch our products outside the Nordic countries,” said Dandanell

“In parallel, we have begun work on a project to finance the operation and construction of maturity stock volumes as needed.”

Mackmyra currently offers innovative whiskey experiences through its award-winning Brukswhisky, the intimate Gravity Cask and its adventurous Mackmyra Whisky Tastings.

These take place at Fjäderholmarna off the coast of Nacka and Djurgården in Stockholm, Gävle, Gothenburg, Häckeberga Slott in Lund in southern Sweden, Karlstad in central Sweden, Högbo near Sandviken and Smögen in western Sweden, as well as the Valbo distillery.

In the coming years, the company will also offer its whiskys and whisky experiences outside the Nordic region.

“As part of our continued growth, we are also creating a dedicated role for Sweden’s first whiskey CFO,” said Dandarell.

The company had sales of about 100 million kronor ($15.44 million) last year and 45 employees, according to newspaper Dagens Industri on Monday.

The goal is to triple whiskey production and Dandarell hopes to raise several dozen million kronor from the offering, the report said.

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Why alcohol-free beer is having a moment in Sweden

Almost one in every ten beers sold in Sweden is alcohol-free, and it's young people in cities who are the biggest consumers. So what's driving the popularity of the booze-free beverage?

Why alcohol-free beer is having a moment in Sweden
Young people in cities are driving the trend for more alcohol-free beer. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad / TT

The popularity of alcohol-free beer is growing fast in Sweden, thanks to technical progress which has improved both the quality and variety of the beverage. It was the drink category that saw the biggest rise in sales in Sweden during 2018, with a 41 percent growth, according to figures from the Swedish Brewers Association.

“We see an increase in all areas; [state-run alcohol monopoly] Systembolaget has increased its sales, restaurants now have more than one variety and the beer selection in supermarkets [where only drinks with an alcohol content below 3.5 percent may be sold] has become noticeably more interesting to consumers,” the association's CEO Anna-Karin Fondberg said.

Swedish brewery Spendrups, one of the major players in the market, has seen a 30 percent increase in sales of alcohol-free beer since 2018, and last year was a record year.

“It's a trend in society that we're turning to alcohol-free products more and more, but I think that more than anything it's about the taste,” commented Spendrups head of press Rose-Marie Hertzman.

“There is now a really good alternative for those who for some reason want to abstain from alcohol, and that has not always been the case. When we manufacture alcohol-free beer, we first make a strong beer [with high alcohol content] and then take away the alcohol, so you keep all the flavours,” said Hertzman.

Making beer free from alcohol is a complicated and expensive process, requiring manufacturers either to cut off the fermentation process or remove the alcohol afterwards. Alcohol is a flavour carrier, but modern techniques mean that it's no longer the case that alcohol-free beer means a flavourless drink.

Anna-Karin Fondberg of the Swedish Brewers Association agrees that product development has been important for the increased interest in alcohol-free beers.

“Swedish breweries got in there early and put a lot of resources into development, and it's paying off now. Consumers are choosy and alcohol-free beer today is a high quality product,” she said.

While the major breweries have played a part, a large number of microbreweries have started up over recent years, and helped draw attention to the wide variety when it comes to beer. This has meant that there are no longer only alcohol-free lagers, but also IPAs, ales, and porters. 

The biggest market for alcohol-free beer is young people living in Sweden's major cities, and as alcohol-free beer has risen in popularity, sales of low-alcohol beer or lättöl have fallen. Since 2018, more alcohol-free beers have been sold than lättöl, which has long been a popular choice for lunch and the only alternative outside Systembolaget's opening hours, and is most popular with middle-aged men.

Another of the reasons for booming sales of alcohol-free beer could well be an increased interest in healthy eating and drinking habits. While healthy food and exercise have long been important to Swedish consumers, and this has been reflected in sales figures within those sectors, there appears to be increasing attention paid to drinks and particularly alcohol.

“I think people want to drink different things at different occasions. We see in our surveys that many people don't only drink alcohol-free beverages, but earlier when someone for some reason didn't want a beer with alcohol, they would turn to water or soda,” said Fondberg.

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