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This is the story of a dream. The dream of an entrepreneur who, upon returning from America where he had been an emigrant, backed different projects, some even considered exotic, such as beer.
Jose Maria Rivera Corral founded, in 1906, La Estrella Galicia, dedicated to producing beer and ice, and whose name harked back to his business in Veracruz “La Estrella de Oro”.
1906 was an important year for events which would affect the future of the company: the Nobel Prize awarded to Ramon y Cajal, and the founding of Aguas de Cabreiroa.
However, the start of the 20th century was not an easy one.
La Estrella Galicia had to face wars and economic crises, which meant a search for survival strategies and a need for inventiveness.
It is in that period that the cultivation of hop took off, as a response to the lack of raw material supply.
During the roaring twenties, the founder’s son completed his commercial training in Hamburg and became one of the first Spaniards to obtain the title of Master Brewer.
The second generation introduced the mechanisation of the production process, not an easy decision to take in such difficult moments, but which would be a key one for the future.
A brewhouse, fermentation vats and metallic tanks to store the beer were acquired enabling this process to be carried out.
These changes allowed the increasing demand, due to the growing popularity of beer, to be met.
But by this time, the world was on the brink of war, and the business was affected, resulting a slump in production.
After the sudden halt produced by the Spanish Civil War and World War II, between 1936 and 1945, the company began to enjoy a period of stability in keeping with the new world order.
With time, beer began to be a part of Spanish consumer habits.
Demand grew and a large part of the production processes were mechanised, from production to bottling, which meant a definitive farewell to the traditional methods in the search for a stable product with its own characteristics.
Estrella Galicia’s growth continued in the 60s and production reached 10million litres.
The third generation of the Rivera family took important decisions which made very clear the need to build a factory with a higher production capacity.
In 1967 the decision was taken to acquire land in the industrial estate in A Grela (A Coruña). At the end of 1968, the new factory began to be built.
The new facilities were inaugurated in 1972, and Estrella Galicia Especial Rivera was brewed for the first time.
In the old factory in Cuatro Caminos (A Coruña) an emblematic brewery was maintained, which nowadays serves almost 2million beers a year.
In 1979 the can format was introduced, a clearly different format which was added to the traditional bottle and barrel.
In the 1980s the product and format offer was completed in response to an increasingly demanding market.
The belief in the need for R&D resulted in the production of the first “extra” beers in 1982, with a more careful presentation and higher levels of quality enforcing the introduction of cylindroconical fermentation and storage vessels.
In 1988, the first non-alcoholic beer was launched, under the label Estrella Galicia Sin. Produced by using reverse osmosis dealcoholisation, it was initially produced in small amounts, until the early 90s, when non-alcoholic draft beer production was developed, and presented in 30-litre barrels.
The fourth generation took over at a moment when Galicia seemed small, and the company began its search for new markets.
The 90s are characterised by the beginning of the national and international expansion process, the launch of new beers (1906, River, and HR) with more attractive formats such as the longneck bottle or screen-printed labels, and the first stage of diversification in the mineral water sector with Aguas de Cabreiroa (1994).
At that time Hijos de Rivera took on new markets in the rest of Spain and Europe, and the first steps were taken in USA and Mexico, through agreements with local suppliers.
This was only the beginning of an expansion process that continues to the current period.
The new century arrives with the incorporation of new firms and brands to the business group. Cider, wine, liquours, grape juice (mosto) or sangria are added to the company’s portfolio through the acquisition of companies like Sidreria Gallega in Chantada (Lugo) or the winery Ponte da Boga in the Ribeira Sacra (Ourense).
Throughout these years, Hijos de Rivera grows as a company, not only linked to the beverage industry but, also by diversifying its activity towards services such as distribution, catering premises design (Desymo) and management of its own premises (Giste).
And on the company’s 100th anniversary, it can be said that this has just begun.
Hijos de Rivera celebrates its centenary, grateful to consumers for their support all these years. It is them who have made it possible to persevere with the move towards modernity and innovation, whilst maintaining the very character of a 100% Galician, family-run company, with its roots and firm commitment to the land from where its products originate.
The Centenary celebrations mark a new era in which the company makes a huge effort to consolidate its presence in those places it has moved to and to find its place in new markets.
An unstoppable national expansion process begins, and on the international scene, the Hijos de Rivera products are present in 30 countries worldwide.
This move towards overseas markets is consolidated by the creation of business models in the target country with subsidiaries in the Philippines, China, Japan, USA, and Brazil.
During these years, the company receives recognition in the shape of being selected to represent Spain in the Shanghai Expo, its inclusion in the Leading Brands of Spain Forum, and receiving multiple national and international awards for its products.
Avant-garde proposals are the fruit of these years, such as Magma de Cabreiroa or La Tita Rivera; Agua de Cuevas or Maeloc Cider become a part of the range; the beer portfolio is widened to include Estrella Galicia Light and seasonal beers such as Estrella Xacobeo or Estrella Galicia Seleccion; the distribution network is further established with companies in strategic locations, and the Made-to-Order concept comes to fruition via CustomDrinks, offering a personalised product and format service for customers.
Despite this whirl of activity, there is plenty more to be done and it is clear that it is necessary to restructure the business around a Corporation with great diversification of products and markets.Because the best is yet to come.