Germany: Successful symposium “Toolbox for profitable growth in declining markets” by Huesch & Partner and BV GFGH 2024

Full house: Around 120 participants attended the symposium (all photos © Huesch & Partner)


On March 12, 2024, the symposium “Toolbox for profitable growth in declining markets” was held in Cologne by logistics consultancy Huesch & Partner under the patronage of the Federal Association of German Beverage Wholesalers (BV GFGH).

“This symposium is a must-attend event for anyone who wants to remain successful in the beverage trade in the future.”

This quote from a medium-sized beverage wholesaler during the last coffee break of the symposium describes the benefits and added value of this event very well. The Huesch Symposium is not a classic lecture congress, but invites managers and movers and shakers from all areas of the beverage industry to listen, exchange ideas and join in the discussion. A good place for practical exchange and constructive further thinking on the subject of beverage logistics beyond the day-to-day business.

In his introductory speech, host Bernd Huesch from Huesch & Partner Logistikberater emphasized how important logistics has become for the success of the entire beverage industry. In the current declining markets, potential and opportunities can best be tapped by two factors: optimizing the supply chain and digitalizing processes. The management of sustainable processes is currently extremely challenging under the changing framework conditions, but it is feasible.



Left: Bernd Huesch explains the importance of logistics for the beverage industry in his introductory speech

Right: As patron of the Huesch Symposium, Dirk Reinsberg gave an impressive keynote speech on the impact of legal framework conditions on the entire industry

The GFGH as an important link.

Beverage wholesalers play a decisive role in this; on the one hand as a link between manufacturers and the market, and on the other through their great potential in the digitalization of processes. Digitalization is the twin sister of logistics. Bernd Huesch is therefore particularly pleased that this year’s symposium was once again held under the patronage of the Federal Association of German Beverage Wholesalers.

Dirk Reinsberg, Managing Director of the BV GFGH, highlighted the explosive nature and scope of this development in his introductory speech. Not only the much-discussed new European packaging regulation PPWR, but also the entire Green Deal with its more than 40 individual regulations are almost impossible for a medium-sized beverage wholesaler to manage at first glance. This is where the BV GFGH, together with the Association of German Beverage Retailers (VDGE) and fjol, offers an industry-specific solution with the jointly developed sustainability management tool, which provides companies with sustainable and long-term support in implementing their individual sustainability goals. Fortunately, thanks to continuous and consistent lobbying, it has also been possible to prevent the worst effects of the PPWR, according to Dirk Reinsberg. In this context, he would particularly like to thank the other beverage industry associations and organizations in the sector for their excellent cooperation. The project is an excellent example of what can be achieved when several partners work together.

CO2 is a new currency for successful logistics.

“Those who save distances also save CO2 and those who save CO2 will always have lower costs in the future,” said Bernd Huesch in the discussion with Michael Kröhl (Krombacher Brauerei) and Walter Steffens (FÜR SIE). CO2 will therefore become the new currency for the success of the entire beverage industry – for the beverage wholesale trade (in the following: BHT), but also for manufacturers and retailers. Short distances and standardization are the most important instruments for saving CO2. The services associated with the increasingly important reusable system must become assessable. Steffens acknowledged the expertise oft he beverage wholesalers in empty containers and its strategic role in a functioning reusable drinks system, but at the same time made it clear that in his opinion the cost burden lies with the manufacturer and distributor. Of course, Michael Kröhl took a more differentiated view.

It will hardly be possible to reduce the variety of containers initiated by the industry. Complexity and therefore the importance of sorting will increase. Professional empties sorting, for example, perfectly complements the classic business segment of the BHT.

Empties sorting is a perfect business segment for the BWT.

However, this increased effort must also be rewarded accordingly. In the interaction between industry and the BWT, performance and consideration must be made more transparent. Constant exchange and a common understanding of the processes in the reusable system are essential for this. This is why the BV GFGH is involved in cross-sector lobbying at the Huesch Symposium and in the LOGISTIK LOUNGE at BrauBeviale.

Lively discussion: Torsten Hiller, Michael Schiekofer, Jens Berberich, Dirk Reinsberg, Walter Steffens and Michael Kröhl (from left to right)

The Radeberger Group or Krombacher as a benchmark?

One of the highlights of the symposium was certainly the presentation “Verticalization from the producer to the consumer” by Jens Berberich, who is responsible for purchasing, logistics and sustainability at the Radeberger Group. He gave an overview of the strategy of Germany’s largest brewery group, from production to empties sorting, not just with generalities but with concrete figures. It was very interesting to gain such a deep insight into the way a big player thinks and acts, especially from the perspective of a beverage wholesaler.

The open figures and clear statements triggered a lively exchange with Michael Kröhl, Head of Logistics at the Krombacher Group. His strategy differs from Jens Berberich’s in important respects.

In the concluding panel, divergent positions became clear, e.g. also in terms of value, i.e. the costs and the location of sorting. The group around Dirk Reinsberg – LOGIPACK strategist Torsten Hiller, Michael Schiekofer from Getränke Ziegler and Bernd Huesch – emphasized the advantages of decentralized sorting at the beverage wholesalers or service providers, whereby Jens Berberich in particular sees the high costs of sorting empties as a burden for the manufacturer.

Digitalization with concrete practical benefits.

The contributions from beverage wholesaler trinkkontor, beverage service provider flaschenpost and Max Huesch and Christian Kloda from Huesch & Partner clearly showed what digitalization can look like in practice today, including through AI.

Dirk Huizing and Niklas Lapscheck showed how trinkkontor uses a sophisticated bonus system with AI support to remunerate its drivers more appropriately, thereby increasing employee loyalty and making its tours more efficient at the same time. An impressive example of how digitally collected data and individual personal performance need not be a contradiction in terms.

AI expert Christian Kloda from Huesch &Partner presented a planning tool that can be used to plan order quantities taking into account weather forecasts, public holidays, property location and many variable factors. The fact that there was only a deviation of around 1 percent between planning and reality was very impressive. Imagine the advantages that can be achieved for a beverage wholesaler, from capital commitment and cooling to saving kilometers and optimized route planning.

Max Huesch presented a tool that is particularly helpful for the BWT. Using a relatively simple Power BI methodology, the profitability of customers in the catering industry can be analyzed and different scenarios for optimization with variable factors of a price and condition system such as assortment, stop quantities, number of stops can be run through. A powerful tool for optimizing internal logistics processes and negotiations with manufacturers and customers.

From order receipt to finished goods in ten minutes – and that with several thousand orders a day. Christopher Messina and Bernd Huesch showed how this is made possible by a digital supply chain twin, using the example of Flaschenpost. What is particularly impressive is that the entire system with the company’s more than 20 national locations is controlled from a single workstation. Like Commander Kirk, this only intervenes when something out of the ordinary happens.

Who sorts best?

Empties sorting showed just how complex a topic can be. On the one hand, Thorsten Weinmann from Vision-Tec showed how fascinating a fully automated system can be designed and how such a system can be calculated; on the other hand, a controversial discussion broke out as to who should bear the costs. Walter Steffens, as a board member of FÜR SIE and the logistics service provider LHV, showed understanding for the high investments, but did not see the need for long-term contracts. He believes that the manufacturers are obliged to bear the costs of sorting the empties. They would also be responsible for the complexity.


Bernd Huesch, Huesch & Partner; Dirk Huizing, trinkkontor; Christian Kloda, Huesch & Partner; Niklas Lapscheck, trinkkontor; Walter Steffens, REWE Für Sie; Christopher Messina, flaschenpost; Dirk Reinsberg, BV GFGH; Michael Kröhl, Krombacher Brauerei; Thorsten Weinmann, vision-tec; Michael Schiekofer, Ziegler Group; Torsten Hiller, LOGIPACK; Jens Berberich, Radeberger Group; Maximilian Huesch, Huesch & Partner (from left to right))

Nobody can do reusable logistics alone.

LOGIPACK strategist Torsten Hiller, introduced by Bernd Huesch as the “networker of the industry” because of his LOGICircle, appealed to all players in the supply chain: “No one can do reusable logistics alone. Everyone should network as sensibly as possible in a sustainable reusable system.” Walter Steffens took up this suggestion and proposed a “Reusable Logistics Round Table”.

Michael Schiekofer reported on the “Beverages on the rails” initiative of several regional rail logistics companies that would like to exchange ideas with manufacturers and the beverage wholesalers.

Michael Schiekofer summed up his impression of the symposium very well. He was full of new impressions, took note of so much and is eager to put some of it into practice.

One thing that stands out in general at the Huesch Symposium is definitely the nature of the exchange. It is rare to see such high-caliber representatives of the entire beverage industry in such an open, objective and respectful discussion and with an understanding for the positions of others.

This was evident at the LOG-IN communication evening the evening before as well as during the breaks, on stage and in the auditorium. Speaking of LOG-IN: the first-ever pre-event get-together at “Gilden am Zims”, the „home of Cologne’s heroes“, was a complete success. At the invitation of the Radeberger Gruppe, most of the symposium participants met to exchange views and experiences over Kölsch beer and classic Cologne cuisine.

The topic of logistics seems to have been recognized as a relevant factor for the future of the industry: All seats were sold out six weeks before the Huesch Symposium and, despite the rail strikes on the day of the event, hardly a seat remained unoccupied.