Good for People and the Environment

Interview with Michal Brandauer-Netreba, Sales Manager-Sport of Brav Germany GmbH

Brav Germany Imagebild

Outdoor clothing treated with fluorine is waterproof and even oil-resistant. However, in everyday life, breathable and water-repellent functions are sufficient. Especially since the production of fluorine coatings often poses a significant hazard to both humans and the environment. Therefore, when purchasing outdoor clothing, one should pay attention to fluorine-free coatings. Among the pioneers of fluorine-free textiles is the Norwegian company Brav, which is represented in Germany by Brav Germany GmbH.

Brav is one of the leading providers of sports and outdoor equipment. The portfolio of the Norwegian company, headquartered in Lørenskog near Oslo, includes internationally known brands such as the Swedish clothing manufacturer Lundhags, the Norwegian company Swix, which is especially famous for its high-quality ski waxes, the Swiss manufacturer of ski waxes, tools, and accessories Toko, the Norwegian company Ulvang, which specializes in outdoor clothing made from wool and merino wool, and Helsport, Scandinavia's largest manufacturer of tents and sleeping bags.

In Germany, the brand portfolio is represented by Brav Germany GmbH. "Our company was founded in 2005 under the name Swixsport, during the time of the Nordic Walking boom," explains sales manager Michal Brandauer-Netreba. "Previously, Brav was only represented through distributors. The clothing brand Ulvang has been with Swix right from the start."

Michal Brandauer-Netreba, Sales Manager-Sport Brav Germany GmbH
Michal Brandauer-Netreba, Sales Manager-Sport Brav Germany GmbH

2006/2007 was the first green winter, followed by 2007/2008. 'During this time, the Nordic-walking boom collapsed,' says Michal Brandauer-Netreba. The company was restructured, and in 2010, the ski wax brand Toko was added as a direct competitor to Swix, the market leader for ski wax in Central Europe. 'Germany and Austria are the only countries where both brands have developed positively since the purchase,' says Michal Brandauer-Netrebra. The international brand portfolio continued to grow: in 2012, the Swedish outdoor brand Lundhags was integrated into Brav to make the business less dependent on winter. However, it was quickly realized that the traditional outdoor retailer and the sports retailer target different demographics.

Brav Germany Production
Fluorine-free ski waxes are being produced in Lillehammer, Norway...
Brav Germany Ski Wax Collection
...produced for Swix and Toko
Brav Germany Product Portfolio
The Toko brand offers a wide range of ski waxes and fabric care products - all 100% fluorine-free

The parent company of Swix is located in Norway. "Due to the ever-greater variety of brands, things have become very complex," says Michal Brandauer-Netreba. "That's why Swixsport was renamed Brav Germany in 2018. Brav only serves as an umbrella brand for the individual brands, which are independent on their own." Then came Corona, and with Corona a new management team; the warehouse in Central Europe was closed and everything was supposed to be supplied from a central warehouse in Norway. "The result was that we could no longer reliably deliver within 24 hours," explains Michal Brandauer-Netreba.

Brav thus came into a difficult situation and more positions at Brav were reduced. "In the meantime, the new management in Norway has recognized the errors and we are working on ensuring that our 2,000 customers in the DACH region will soon be supplied again from a warehouse in the EU. They would immediately wish for a warehouse for their customers in the EU themselves. Currently, however, different scenarios are being played out and we must be patient for a while longer."

Brav Germany Lundhags Collection
For years now, the entire Lundhags textile collection has been fluorine-free

Recently, the brand Helsport was acquired, which is primarily known for tents and sleeping bags in the expedition sector. Overall, according to Michal Brandauer-Netreba, they are in a challenging market environment: "Nordic sports are trending, but are very dependent on snow. And due to climatic changes, there are fewer and fewer real winters."

However, Brav has significant strengths to counteract this, first and foremost the great brand value of the entire portfolio. "All brands have huge potential," says Michal Brandauer-Netreba. Moreover, the owner of Brav decided already in 2019 to no longer use fluorine, despite the fact that Swix invented fluorinated waxes and became a global market leader with them. "The International Ski Federation and the International Biathlon Union have decided that starting from the season 2023/2024, fluorine products will be banned in their international competitions.

Since we have been focusing 100% on the development of fluorine-free ski waxes since 2019, the success at the World Cups or the Biathlon World Championship has proven us right," explains Michal Brandauer-Netreba. With this, Brav is excellently prepared for the years 2026/2027, when an EU-wide ban on fluorine is expected. "The entire collection from Lundhags has been fluorine-free for years, which is now a matter of course for us," says Michal Brandauer-Netreba. Omitting fluorine in the manufacturing of textile coatings sounds simple, but it is not. "Fluorine cannot be replaced with just one substance, but requires various combinations and alternatives to achieve the same properties," explains Michael Brandauer-Netreba.

Brav Germany Showroom Salzburg
Brav Germany Showroom Salzburg

Innovative Brands

Brav Germany GmbH, based in Puchheim near Munich, currently employs seven people and generates a revenue of 17 million EUR. Besides Germany, main markets include Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic, and the Benelux countries. The foundation of success is a broad portfolio of internationally known, innovative brands. "Swix is the market leader in the cross-country skiing sector worldwide and a market and innovation driver," says Michal Brandauer-Netreba. "Toko is currently launching racing waxes that are at the same level or better than the old fluorinated waxes and are easy to process. Ski care is a big topic."

The brand Ulvang also has great potential as the market for merino underwear is steadily growing. All brands have one thing in common, as Michal Brandauer-Netreba explains: "The aim is always to have happy, satisfied customers." In general, he sees a lot of potential for the future in the combination of the brands Lundhags, Swix, Toko, Ulvang, and Helsport. Currently, they are also trying to move the brand Swix out of the ski wax niche. "We want to re-establish ourselves with Swix in the Nordic walking poles sector," says Michal Brandauer-Netreba. In the past, many leading trade shows of the industry were attended. "Already before Corona, we decided not to visit the former leading trade shows like the Winter Ispo or the Outdoor anymore and instead invest in permanent showrooms. Currently, we only attend selected trade shows of associations such as Intersport or Sport 2000 like the OP trade fair in Mainhausen."