Suspicions confirmed: Tanker sells Lithuanian beer for Estonian production

Jaanus Vogelberg
, ajakirjanik
Manor cellar and Tanker beers on the store.
Manor cellar and Tanker beers on the store. Photo: Postimees

After an article published in Postimees about the suspicious origin of Tanker's new beers, the Agriculture and Food Board (PTA) initiated proceedings and it turned out that the brewing had taken place in part in the infamous Lithuanian Kalnapilis factory. Proceedings were initiated against Tanker's owner for submitting false information.

Postimees wrote about suspicions related to Tanker's beer production on April 12. Now, however, Postimees received information that a week later, on April 19, the PTA had initiated proceedings. In the course of this, it became clear that although new beers (Sauna Lager, Dark Lager, Light IPA and non-alcoholic Sauna Lager) are partly produced in Estonia, they are also bottled, brewed and fermented in the Lithuanian factory.

However, the brewery did not submit information about it to the state alcohol register and so on May 5 the PTA decided to initiate proceedings against Tanker's parent company Royal Unibrew Eesti OÜ, as they are the wholesalers of these beer brands in Estonia and therefore have either to enter them properly in the register or alternatively stop the sales – the registration obligation does not apply to non-alcoholic beer. As far as Postimees is formed, the PTA has also forwarded suspicions about the use of unfair commercial practices to the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA).

Brewery unable to answer questions

Tanker informed the media in the beginning of April that it plans to invest one million euros this year and start competing with its new premium beers with the two major players in the market (Saku and A. Le Coq), whose market share is presently over 90 percent. The announcement emphasized that the new beers will be made at the company's Jüri factory. The shops even advertised the drink with the label «from a small brewery».

However, the factory codes on the bottoms of the beer cans were extremely similar to the codes printed on the Mõisakeldri beer produced by the Lithuanian Kalnapilis brewery. The Kalnapilis factory is owned by the Danish brewer Royal Unibrew, which also owns Tanker Brewery through its local branch Royal Unibrew Eesti OÜ.

Ranner Kuningas, manager of Royal Unibrew Estonia, was initially unable to give a yes-or-no answer to a phone call from Postimees about whether the new beers were produced in Estonia or Lithuania, and asked for written questions. In a later carefully worded answer, Kuningas admitted, in essence, that beer actually produced in Lithuania could reach the Estonian consumers.

«/.../ after the acquisition process of Tanker, we have always said that one of the advantages of belonging to a larger group is the opportunity to better manage production resources. This means that during higher demand, when the Tanker brewery will not be able to brew a the entire required amount of beer, we will have the opportunity to use other Royal Unibrew Group breweries, where the product will be made under the supervision of Tanker brewers and Jaanis Tammela,» Kuningas wrote.

The Agriculture and Food Board then replied the request of Postimees that Tanker's beers would be scrutinized. «If incorrect information about the beer has been submitted to the alcohol register, the registry entry may be declared invalid pursuant to the Alcohol Act (if the producer has submitted inaccurate information when applying for entry of an alcoholic product in the alcohol register). The board will certainly inspect the company's products to find out where the beer is produced. If a violation is detected, it will be reacted to,» said Elen Kurvits, the spokesperson of the board.