It was in the late 1920s that L. Farrugia & Sons, commonly known as Farsons, first ventured into the brewing industry, with the building of a brewery in Hamrun. Lewis Victor Farrugia, visionary entrepreneur and architect by profession, was diversifying the activities of an industrial gas business after the family flour mills were destroyed during the riots of Sette Giugno in 1919, which saw the Maltese population rise against the British government of the day.
Lewis V Farrugia
The first locally-brewed beer, Farsons Pale Ale, was launched on 19th April 1928, only a few months after the Hamrun brewery was completed. A new chapter in the history of Maltese industry had started.
A year later, L. Farrugia & Sons merged with H & G Simonds, renowned brewers from Reading in the UK. H & G Simonds had been shipping regular supplies of beer to the Maltese islands since 1880 to satisfy the strong demand of the British garrison stationed in Malta during the period. The new company was called Simonds Farsons Limited.
Brig. General Harry Simonds de Brett
Mr Farrugia became the first Managing Director of the new company. Brigadier General Harry Simonds de Brett, who had been managing the Simonds branch in Malta, became the Chairman, representing Simonds’ interests. The new Chairman, who had a long and distinguished career in the army, would steer the company through many difficult years. He retired from the company in 1950.
Barely a year after Farsons Pale Ale was launched, a competing local brewery, The Malta Export Brewery, launched Cisk Pilsner. The history of Cisk however started much earlier than that, when Malta’s first privately-owned bank was established by Giuseppe Scicluna in 1840.
Marquis John Scicluna
As the first local bank to introduce cheques into local circulation, it was not long before the Marquis earned himself the colloquial nickname 'ic-Cisk', which was a mispronounciation of the new currency.
In 1928, Scicluna’s Bank, under the direction of Marquis John Scicluna, son of Giuseppe, took over the operation of a company of one of its clients which had been granted a temporary exclusive license to manufacture Pilsner and Bavarian style 'Munchener' lager beers. Naturally the first locally brewed lager on the island took on the name Cisk and the rest as they say, is history.
After pre-war failed attempts, Simonds Farsons Limited and The Malta Export Brewery opted to merge post-war and the formation of Simonds Farsons Cisk Limited was announced on 30th June 1948. Marquis Scicluna became Chairman in 1950, succeeding Brigadier General Simonds de Brett, and Lewis V. Farrugia became Managing Director.
In 1950 it was decided to invest in a new brewery and construction works started on a site at Mriehel. Construction of the new brewery was carried out under the direction of Mr Lewis V. Farrugia, an architect by profession. Mr Farrugia had previously dedicated two years to develop a plan and project, which, according to his experience, would meet the requirements of the market. The brewery was formally inaugurated in June 1950, and still stands today. The facilities enhanced Farsons’ brewing capabilities and paved the way for new opportunities.
Barely a year after the inauguration of the Mriehel brewery, the newly merged company diversified into the production of soft drinks and the next significant milestone was the introduction of the soft drink Kinnie in 1952. Mr Anthony Miceli-Farrugia, appointed Managing Director in 1956 following the untimely death of Mr Lewis V. Farrugia, was instrumental in the development of this product, a bitter-sweet non-alcoholic drink with orange flavours and aromatic herbs.
Mr Anthony Miceli-Farrugia
Kinnie, manufactured and marketed under its own trademark and label, was launched as an alternative to the innumerable colas that had proliferated all over Europe after the Second World War.
For over 25 years Mr Anthony Miceli-Farrugia contributed to the successful running and development of the company. Among other investments he was responsible for a new Beer Packaging Hall which featured two parallel identical returnable glass bottling lines which was commissioned in 1974.
He also saw the entry of the company into the catering business through Express Catering Company Limited, operator of “Wimpy” restaurants chain, and the development of the Fortizza restaurant. During his tenure, the importation of wines and spirits was consolidated by the formation of a dedicated company, Wands Limited, now FBIC.
Mr Louis Anthony Farrugia, son of Lewis, was appointed Managing Director in 1980, succeeding Anthony Miceli-Farrugia, who was appointed Company Chairman.
Mr Louis A. Farrugia
In 1984 Mr Farrugia drew up a fresh Brewery development master plan that included further enhancements to the beer processing facilities.
A state-of-the-art fully automated brewing process plant, that included an extensive tank farm facility, was inaugurated in 1990.
On the retirement of Mr Anthony Miceli-Farrugia, Mr Bryan A. Gera was elected Chairman of the Board in 1995. He had been serving on the Board of Directors since 1980. As Chairman, Mr Gera brought along significant personal business experience, leading the Board to continue taking timely decisions on forward-looking investments.
Mr Bryan A. Gera
In 1995, in yet another milestone, Simonds Farsons Cisk became the first private sector company outside the banking business to list its equity on the Malta Stock Exchange.
As a listed company, Farsons proceeded with another first, when it set up The Farsons Foundation, highlighting a strong sense of corporate social awareness.