Simonds Farsons Cisk plc celebrated its 75th Anniversary since the launching of the very first beer by the Maltese entrepreneur, Lewis Victor Farrugia. From its relatively humble origins, Farsons has grown into one of Malta’s leading Group of Companies. Seventy-five years which are closely linked with Malta’s history and its industrial and economic progress.
It was amidst vibrant fireworks during the traditional ‘Festa’ of Saint George at Qormi, in 1928, and a new chapter in the history of Maltese industry was about to be written.
This beer was a ‘Pale Ale’, brewed in neighbouring Hamrun by a new brewery, the brainchild of Lewis Victor Farrugia, a visionary entrepreneur and an architect by profession, who was diversifying the activities of an industrial gas business. This operation had in turn, evolved from an earlier flour milling company set up in 1892 by Lewis’ father, Luigi. This company became known as ‘L. Farrugia & Sons’, Lewis being the youngest of these sons, and eventually adopted the trade name ‘Far-sons’.
Realizing the importance of marketing, Lewis Farrugia sought a strong and memorable image to represent his enterprise and Neptune was identified. The image was reproduced from the bronze statue that stands in the courtyard of the President’s Palace in Valletta. With a steady gaze, this unswerving icon oversaw the unfolding of dramatic, and sometimes tumultuous, events in the history of both Nation and Company.
Barely one month after the launch of Farsons Pale Ale, a competing local beer was launched. This was brewed by the Malta Export Brewery run by Marquis John Scicluna. The nickname inherited from Scicluna’s family’s banking business was ‘Cisk’ and the new rival brand was launched as ‘Cisk Pilsner’. Apart from the output of these two local breweries, imported beer was also available
In 1875, the British firm ‘H & G Simonds’ appointed an agency in Malta to supply the British Army with beer and in 1890 this became a branch importing bulk beer from Reading, bottling it and distributed it locally. The impact that Farrugia’s energetic leadership had on the beer market was significant, and Farsons soon made great headway, quickly affecting Simonds’ business.
Displaying acumen in business strategy, in March of 1929 L. Farrugia & Sons and Simonds merged, forming 'Simonds Farsons Limited'.
As the Company developed, so too did Malta. In 1931, the Malta railway closed. In 1934, Maltese, along with English became an official language. - in village bars, town cafés, and homes, a pint of Simonds Farsons beers must, surely, have been raised to toast events such as this.
Following the hardship of the War years, times were changing and Malta and Farsons started building anew. As the Hamrun brewery struggled to cope with substantial demands, Lewis Farrugia conceived, and partly designed himself, a new and much larger brewery on modern lines.
Some years later the Company merged with the competing Maltese brewer, ‘Cisk’. Thus, in 1948 ‘Simonds Farsons Cisk Limited’ was created, and another key brand, Cisk Lager was launched.
First Share Offer
By April 1948, partly to help raise funds for the new brewery, a Prospectus was issued offering one hundred and forty thousand one pound shares at two pounds per share.
Despite the premium price, the issue, one of the first in Maltese commercial history, was heavily oversubscribed. This was the case with several of the Company’s subsequent issues.
Mriehel Brewery Inaugurated
Another milestone was reached in June 1950, when the Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy, inaugurated the Mriehel brewery and was blessed by Archbishop Michael Gonzi. The new facilities enhanced Farsons’ brewing capabilities and paved the way for new opportunities.
A year later, Farsons again made history when it launched Kinnie, a bitter-sweet, non-alcoholic beverage manufactured and marketed under its own trade mark and label. Kinnie, which is some 50 years young today, was the inspiration of Anthony Miceli-Farrugia, who had the foresight to identify a niche for a non-cola thirst quencher, suited to Maltese tastes.
Anthony Miceli-Farrugia was appointed Managing Director in 1956, following the unfortunate death of Lewis Victor Farrugia at a premature age.
During the Seventies, Farsons successfully marketed branded products, adding new names to an impressive portfolio. In 1974 a new beer bottling and packaging hall was commissioned to supplement existing equipment.
In 1977, the company launched San Michel Table Water in returnable glass bottles and acquired the franchise for the production and bottling of Pepsi-Cola, providing refreshment for ‘a new generation’. Farsons also acquired the franchise to produce and market Carlsberg Beer in the Maltese Islands.
Brewery Master Plan
Louis A. Farrugia was appointed Managing Director of Farsons, initiating a complete Brewery Master Plan in 1984. This provided for the phased re-development of the beer production facilities, on a 'green-field' site to the south of the existing brewery.
Inaugurated in 1990, subsequent phases were commissioned throughout the decade, consisting of the enhancement of beer processing facilities and a sizeable extension of the tank-farm as well as an extension to a Process Block building that includes state of the art, computer-controlled, processes.
The strategy of building up a portfolio of strong brands continued and in the ‘90s, Farsons acquired the franchise for Canada Dry products and also launched the Sunkist range of beverages
In 1995, Bryan A. Gera was appointed Chairman of the Company, replacing Anthony Miceli-Farrugia, who in turn assumed the chairmanship of The Farsons Foundation. This was set up with the specific aim of promoting and safeguarding Maltese culture and heritage and contributing towards social solidarity.
Also in 1995, yet another milestone, Simonds Farsons Cisk became the first company completely held by the private sector to list its equity on the Malta Stock Exchange.
Farsons diversified further into leisure and retailing – taking over the Galleria shopping and leisure complex at Fgura in 1997.
In the new Millennium, the Company continued to develop its portfolio of beverage brands. This now includes world-renowned brand names produced locally under licence and own-branded products that became part and parcel of Malta’s way of life.
Farsons Board of Directors now sets group strategy and assumes overall responsibility for the financial performance of the business, whilst a Group Executive Board, chaired by Louis A. Farrugia as Group Chief Executive, manages Group businesses and coordinates subsidiaries and all related enterprises.
In 2002 Farsons was appointed by PepsiCo International as exclusive franchisee to produce and distribute 7UP in Malta. In June 2003, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the first licencing agreement with Carlsberg, a new agreement gave Farsons the right to brew, bottle and market Carlsberg and Skol beers for a further period of twelve years in the Maltese Islands.
In September 2002, Anthony Miceli-Farrugia, the long-serving past Chairman and Managing Director of the Company passed away. ‘Is–Sur Nini’ as he was affectionately known, had joined the Company in 1934 and served it till 1995, having made a significant and on-going contribution to the success of Farsons.
Today Simonds Farsons Cisk produces no less than 26 different brands in 22 different packages with products continually receiving international recognition in prestigious competitions.
The Company’s diversification strategy also led to the setting up Food Chain Holdings, a subsidiary to manage franchised food chain outlets such as Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC and more recently TGI Friday’s and Wands Limited, importer of spirits, international beers and non-alcoholic beverages. Wands also became active with international beer brands, with premium names such as Budweiser, Beck’s and Guinness.
Another importing company in the beverage business, Anthony Caruana & Sons Ltd was a later acquisition, which Farsons made to further strengthen its position on the Maltese beverage market.
Simonds Farsons Cisk celebrated its 75th Anniversary - a history with a proud tradition, enriched with enduring values and an equally exciting future.