Betty Fontaine (Brasserie Simon): Brewer from father to daughter
At the head of the Brasserie Simon since 2003, Betty Fontaine is developing her business in a delicious niche market: specialty beers.
A break with tradition
The Brewery was created in 1824 by Charles Mathieu, whose wife was a member of the Simon family. It was sold 15 years later and returned to the hands of the family in 1890 when it was bought at auction by Jules Simon, Betty’s great-great-grandfather. Jules’ son, Joseph, was to take over the business, followed by his daughter, Jacqueline, Deputy Mayor of Wiltz, who married Charles Fontaine. Their son, Jacques took over the reins in turn in 1975. Betty’s arrival in the brewery in 2003 marked a break with tradition: she is the first person in the family since 1890 to join the brewery without a first name that starts with a “J”!
The “Betty” touch
She was not destined to take over the brewery and, indeed, the subject was taboo at home. Her mother thought she would become a housewife. Finally, her big brother chose to go into computing and Betty completed a course in electro-mechanical engineering. She had intended to specialise in aeronautics, but graduated in mechanical engineering, which had a less theoretical bent. She still regards the 27th of June 2003, the last day of her studies, as a milestone even though she went back to study for an MBA at night school later on. Her mission began at the brewery with a first year of observation, and then she moved from theory to practice. At the time, the brewery only had one brand and a production of 18,000 hectolitres. In 2006, the Brasserie Simon bought Ourdaller microbrewery, based in Heinerscheid, which produced a special beer from buckwheat. The following year, the Okult brewery was taken over: an organic beer flavoured with coriander and orange peel.
The Malt War
The results of this strategy bore fruit in 2009. This meant that the company could invest in the modernisation of its production tool and innovate: for example, Okult launched a ‘stout’ similar to the famous Guinness and the Simon Pils was marketed in a beautiful aluminium bottle, 100% recyclable. This niche strategy allowed Betty to strengthen her position on the Luxembourg market while avoiding confrontation with the two giants on the market, Bofferding-Mattin and Mousel-Diekirch, which boast incomparable production volumes and marketing budgets. “You can’t go and pee with the big dogs if you can’t lift your leg as high as them” she likes to joke. Future growth may be driven by exports, but in the meantime the lorries of the Brasserie Simon criss cross the country with their deliveries, even calling in on private customers.