By Jaime Lopez / News.co.cr
Budweiser and Heineken are just two examples of foreign beers that are brewed in Costa Rica by the Florida Ice &Farm Company (FIFCO), which is gradually becoming a significant player in the lucrative, global brewery scene.
There is no question that FIFCO is now part of the Big Beer oligopoly thanks to its firm business expansion over the last few years. To wit, the FIFCO beer catalog now extends way beyond the Imperial, Bavaria and Pilsen brands. Some of the other products it owns and controls include:
- Labatt (in the United States)
- Honey Brown
- Magic Hat
It is interesting to notice that many of FIFCO’s recent acquisitions have been brands that are considered to be “craft beers” made by microbreweries in North America. Indeed, FIFCO has hinted at competing against the burgeoning craft beer market in Costa Rica, but the reality is that, in terms of business and revenue potential, the craft beer market in the United States is a more enticing target for FIFCO.
That FIFCO is making headway in foreign markets can be a source of pride to people in Costa Rica, but this is not the opinion of Matthew Cropp, who recently wrote an incisive article on the esteemed publication Toward Freedom about Craft Brewing’s Growing Identity Crisis:
Much of the value of most craft brewers’ brand derives from the often almost cult-like devotion of their fans. Those fans immensely cherish the localized identity and independence of their breweries, and, after many years and often thousands of dollars of product purchased, the sale of the brewery to the likes of A-B InBev [and FIFCO] can feel like a deep betrayal.
[An] example is Alchemy and Science. An “independently operating subsidiary” of Boston Beer Company. A&S was created by Magic Hat founder Alan Newman after he sold that brewery to the first in a series of owners (it currently resides in the portfolio of Costa Rica-based Florida Ice & Farm Co.)
[what] makes the craft beer scene so special is the passion people have for the product and the community. It’s a sector that emerged very much against the wishes of the big brewers, but to the benefit of the millions of consumers who are no longer forced to decide between a handful of varieties of tepid monopolist booze-water. However, the incentives driving the brewing behemoths to re-assimilate the craft brewing community into their empires are large, and growing larger […] it is time to begin a serious conversation about who owns, and should own, our beer.
Mr. Cropp seems to have written the article with FIFCO and similar enterprises in mind, and thus it will be interesting to see what approach this company will take as it continues to expand its portfolio of foreign and domestic craft beers.