Bionade [ˌbi.(j)oˈnaːdə] is a German range of organic fermented and carbonated beverages. It is manufactured in the Bavarian town of Ostheim vor der Rhön by the Peter beer brewery. Sales started in 1995 and Bionade is now available in most European countries. Bionade GmbH is a subsidiary of Radeberger, a group of breweries which is a division of the Oetker holding company.
Dieter Leipold was the master brewer at Privatbrauerei Peter in Ostheim, a small town in northern Bavaria, and a relation by marriage of the Kowalsky family, owners of the brewery. Worried about the future of the company, which was facing bankruptcy, he had the idea of producing a nonalcoholic drink by fermentation, on the same principles and under the same purity laws as German beer: the drink would consist only of the natural ingredients malt, water, sugar, and fruit essences, and would not contain corn syrup or other artificial additives. He experimented for eight years in a bathroom laboratory, spending €1.5 million of the brewery owner Peter Kowalsky's money. He isolated a strain of bacteria capable of converting the sugar that normally becomes alcohol into nonalcoholic gluconic acid, which he used to ferment the new drink.
In 1999 Kowalsky hired the marketing expert Wolfgang Blum. Blum devised a new marketing strategy for Bionade. A retro blue, white, and red logo was designed. The bottle was made out of clear glass (instead of brown) but its form was based on a classical vitreous longneck beer format. This eased the logistics of distributing the drink and also helped to sell Bionade in bars and nightclubs, as a non-alcoholic drink that looked like a beer. The product was branded as a new trendy drink. As the company could not afford advertising on television or in the print media, they first placed it in bars and restaurants in Hamburg which were frequented by marketers and advertisers. Further viral marketing attempts included sponsoring sporting, cultural and children's events throughout Germany.
By 2002-03 two million bottles of the drink were sold. A wave of health awareness was sweeping Germany: for example, 75% of all Germans approved a ban on smoking in bars. Sales reached seven million in 2004, twenty million in 2005, seventy million in 2006, when 73 million bottles were sold, and by 2007 total sales had reached 200 million.
In 2004, Coca-Cola offered to buy the rights to the drink and the Bionade brand, but the producer rejected the offer, citing its plans to expand internationally on its own. By 2006 it was available in Switzerland, Austria and the Benelux countries, and it has since reached Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. In 2007 the company planned expansion into the US.
In 2007, Bionade started its first advertising campaign, using the slogan "Bionade. Das offizielle Getränk einer besseren Welt" ("Bionade. The official beverage of a better world"). This appealed to some of the protesters against the 33rd G8 summit, which was taking place at the time in Heiligendamm, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and led to the stereotype that anti-globalisation activists always drink the beverage. The campaign encompassed billboards in fifteen German cities and radio commercials.
In 2007 plastic bottles were introduced and Bionade appeared in McDonald's cafés. However, sales declined in 2008 and further declined after an increase in prices, to 60 million bottles in 2011. The Kowalsky family sold part ownership to Schindel-Holding and then to Radeberger, who became sole owners in 2012.
Leipold refuses to divulge the exact chemical process he used. According to him, the gluconic acid strengthens the taste of the sugar, so that less is needed. After fermentation, natural flavours—elderberry, litchi, orange-ginger, quince or herbs—are added along with carbonation.
All flavours of Bionade contain water, sugar, malt from barley (2%), carbon acid, calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. The herbal flavoured version also contains natural herb-aromas, the litchi flavoured version natural aroma, the elderberry flavoured version additionally contains concentrated elderberry juice and natural aromas and the orange-ginger flavoured bottles contain extract of ginger and natural aroma. The sugar, barley and elderberries originate from organic agriculture.
The manufacturer emphasises that Bionade tastes like a soft drink, but is healthier than conventional high-sugar soft drinks. They support the claim of healthiness by referring to the relatively low level of sugar, sodium and flavor-enhancing additives, the absence of phosphorus or a stabilising agent, while both calcium and magnesium are present. The website makes more health claims and suggests that calcium is needed for bones and teeth, for nerves and muscles, while magnesium is said to work against listlessness and fatigue.
- Julie Treumann (January 2007). "A Brand-New Brew". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Marco Lauer (2006-09-18). "Der Wahnsinn in der Flasche". taz (in German). Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Miranda Bryant (2007-11-27). "Bionade: The health drink that looks like beer". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2007-11-28.
- Holger Gertz (2007-12-28). "Die Volksbrause". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 2008-02-02.
- Birgit Dengel (2007-09-12). "Bionade plant Expansion in die USA". Financial Times Deutschland (in German). Archived from the original on 2007-09-17.
- Oliver Haustein-Tessmer (June 2007). "Bionade umgarnt die durstigen Gipfel-Gegner". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 2007-10-28.
- David Gordon Smith (August 2007). "The Bionade Success Story; Organic Soda 'Made in Germany' Takes on the World". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
- Beverage Spectrum Magazine, September–October 2007, page 72.
- Neil Merrett. "News briefs: Heineken, Grolsch and Bionade". Beverage Daily. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
- Oliver Haustein-Teßmer (2007-05-29). "Bionade umgarnt die durstigen Gipfel-Gegner". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 2007-12-30.
- "Ende einer Ära: Bionade nur noch ein Getränk von vielen". Die Presse (in German). 2012-02-02.
- Ingredient declaration on Bionade bottles in the Netherlands, July 2008. Organic certificate: DE-001_Öko-Kontrolstelle
- Bionade. "BIONADE het natuurlijkste drankje van Europa". Bionade. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
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