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‘Always the same’, but not the same old thing

Interview with Dr. Hubertine Underberg-Ruder, President of the Board of Underberg AG

European Food: There are a number of digestifs on the market. What makes Underberg different?

Dr. Hubertine Underberg-Ruder: There are quite a few factors. We use a secret family recipe and method to make Underberg, which contains herbs from 43 countries around the world. When my great-great-grandfather was creating Underberg, he noticed a difference in the flavour and quality of various herbs depending, amongst other things, on the origin of the ingredients. He devised the recipe and the “Semper idem method” ensuring the gentle extraction of the herbs for Underberg to ensure consistent quality. The herbs – a true gift of nature - really work wonders. One consumer from abroad even described Underberg as “German technology for your stomach”.

In terms of production, Underberg is unique in not adding any sugar or sugar colour. It is allowed to mature for several months in barrels made of Slovenian oak. Then it is filled into 20 ml bottles. That seems to be the perfect amount after a good meal. One more aspect that makes Underberg so unique is its designation of origin as Rheinberger Kräuter. Thanks to our long tradition and strong connection to the region, we received the designation from the European Community in 2008.

European Food: Is Underberg and Asbach available only in the DACH region?

Dr. Hubertine Underberg-Ruder: Not at all! We export approximately 40% of our Underberg to more than 100 countries worldwide. It is increasingly popular in the Nordic countries, and Underberg has enjoyed double digit growth in the US for years. With Asbach, our other famous German brand from the romantic Rhine, we focus on the US, the UK and China, where higher-quality distillates play a role.

European Food: How important is it for your company to communicate with end consumers?

Dr. Hubertine Underberg-Ruder: On the one hand, we don’t sell directly to consumers. Our clients are food retailers, the gastronomy sector and gastronomy wholesalers. On the other hand, it is the consumers ultimately choosing the product, so we long to build bridges to them. I think it is meaningful to act as ambassadors of pleasure. Our customers should experience connoisseurship and well-being with Underberg.

In an effort to foster customer relationship and loyalty, we began a program called Tops & More in 2002. Since then, consumers have been collecting Underberg bottle caps to trade in for great prizes, like an original Underberg tall glass or a miniature Kräutermobil, our historic delivery truck. We also have exclusive plates with six different patterns from Villeroy & Boch, and we’re constantly adding new prizes. The latest additions were a picnic blanket and a BBQ-apron for the outdoor season. Currently one cap is returned to us every three seconds.

European Food: Underberg is a long-established company. How does the company keep pace with the rest of the market?

Dr. Hubertine Underberg-Ruder: We offer a unique product, so direct competition isn’t much of a problem in most countries. One trend is craftsmanship, but craftsmanship has always been incorporated into our DNA. This isn’t something we need to start doing; however, we can increasingly build on it in the communication of our brands.

We look especially at communication trends, for instance, grill events and Oktober Fests as part of our summer and fall advertising campaign. People drink a digestif after a good meal, and that good meal could be at a cookout, so we have to speak to consumers via grill events and festivals.

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