When Carlsberg needed to prepare international managers to solve local business challenges at their operations around the world, they contacted MCE for an external point of view.
Carlsberg is one of the world’s largest brewery groups. Its broad portfolio of beer brands includes Carlsberg Pilsner, known as “Probably the best beer in the world”. It also has strong regional brands such as Tuborg, Baltika and Holsten, and a wide range of leading brands in local markets.
Carlsberg’s strategy focuses on value creation and expansion by growing business in existing markets and by entering new markets. In order to achieve its strategy, Carlsberg has introduced a range of targets and action plans in all areas of its business to help shape the Carlsberg of tomorrow.
Why did Carlsberg contact MCE?
In line with their slogan “Probably the best beer in the world”, Carlsberg wants to have the best people in the world. They need to attract and develop these people whatever their level. Carlsberg puts special emphasis on developing its International Graduates to support local business needs to grow talent. To support this, Carlsberg wanted them to have an external viewpoint on key business topics including strategy. With this in mind, they approached MCE to see if MCE could provide the external viewpoint that they were looking for.
How did MCE work with Carlsberg?
Understanding the Situation at Carlsberg
The MCE Associate had a number of meetings and discussions with senior management at the company to understand the business situation at Carlsberg.
Analysing What Carlsberg Needed
The foundations of Carlsberg’s core business are the beer markets of Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia. Through their presence and activities there over many years, they have built up strong and profitable positions.
These markets are, however, at different stages of development. These stages often reflect standards of living. This means that factors such as income per capita and the size of the middle class will influence total beer consumption and its growth.
A challenge for Carlsberg is to strike the best possible balance between the mature markets of Western Europe, the growth markets of Eastern Europe, and the emerging markets of Asia. The organization and its people need to constantly adapt to manage these markets successfully. Expertise in many areas such as strategy, marketing, innovation, cost-efficiency, and brewery investments and acquisitions is essential.
Deciding on the right Customer Specific Solution for Carlsberg
Based on interviews and research the MCE Associate prepared a proposal for Carlsberg’s International Graduates. The solution would take the form of a five-day workshop on strategy.
Development of the Solution for Carlsberg
To develop the solution, the MCE Associate prepared company-specific data and information that would make the workshop as realistic as possible. Well in advance of the workshop, participants would prepare strategic analyses and business plans for a case study on Carlsberg. Then during the workshop, they would present the strategic analyses and business plans that they had developed to a senior management committee.
To make the case study match Carlsberg’s real business environment and challenges, the MCE Associate spent one day interviewing key senior executives at Carlsberg. These executives included the VP Western Europe, Group Supply Development Manager, Group Operations Director and the HR Development Manager.
The senior executives were asked, one by one, to discuss their strategies and goals, and their key challenges and “pain points”. This input then became a key ingredient of the case study, which would also include reports, internal memos, emails, and stock exchange updates.
Implementation of the Solution at Carlsberg
As described above, before the workshop the International Graduates worked in small, virtual teams to prepare strategic analyses and business plans. Four teams were created, and each team was allocated a specific country in Western Europe.
The teams assessed Carlsberg and the market’s situation using real strategy, marketing, sales, finance, and supply chain data. With the preparation complete, the workshop took place in Warsaw in May 2008. The workshop was structured in the following way:
- The International Graduates were given an external viewpoint on Carlsberg’s sector by the MCE Associate. This covered corporate strategy, marketing strategy and supply chain strategy
- This was followed by an internal viewpoint on the same topics at Carlsberg by senior management at the company
- The International Graduates then had to use what they had learned and incorporate this into their case studies
One of the challenges was to set up the case studies in such a way that they were like day-to-day business life. To make this happen, the teams had to incorporate the information they had prepared in advance of the workshop and the new information that they had just received from the MCE Associate and Carlsberg’s senior management. On top of that they were given sudden “news” to simulate changing circumstances. For example, they were told that a production facility needed a major repair, or that a competitor had a new pricing strategy. To help them, they received constant coaching from the MCE Associate and the senior management at Carlsberg who had given the internal viewpoints.
Results and Benefits for Carlsberg
In line with their slogan, ‘Probably the best beer in the world’, Carlsberg wants to have the best people in the world. They need to attract and develop these people whatever their level.
At the end of the workshop, each group presented and defended its analysis and business plan to an executive committee consisting of the VP Western Europe, the CEO of Carlsberg Poland, the Group Supply Development Manager and the MCE Associate who had led the solution.
The International Graduates took the role of Vice President of their designated region. In preparing their case studies, presenting their analyses and business plans and defending their arguments, they had a realistic experience of what it would truly be like to manage and lead Carlsberg in the field. All of this was excellent preparation for future roles in a real business environment.
The teams were evaluated by the committee, and a prize was given to the most compelling entry.
In preparing their case studies, presenting their analyses and business plans and defending their arguments, they had a realistic experience of what it would really be like to manage and lead Carlsberg in the field. All of this was excellent preparation for future roles in a real business environment.
To make the case study match Carlsberg’s real business environment and challenges, the MCE Associate spent one day interviewing key senior executives at Carlsberg.
Carlsberg is the undisputed market leader in Northern Europe with No. 1 positions in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and the three Baltic States. Western Europe—with markets such as UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, etc.—accounts for a large part of Carlsberg’s annual revenue. Beer markets are generally mature and characterised by a well-established retail structure, a strong tradition of beer consumption in most of the region, and consumers who are receptive to innovation.
In 2010 Northern and Western Europe accounted for 43% of Carlsberg's total volume and 46% of operating profit.