Think of Labatt’s Blue and you immediately think of Canada and hockey. But did you know, at least in the United States, the Labbat brand has its roots in Costa Rica?
Labatt USA’s parent company will swap out CEOs next month as it prepares to change course. Kris Sirchio will step down as CEO of Rochester-based North American Breweries after about four years in the role. Adrián Lachowski, who previously oversaw the company’s beer business in Central America, will take his place beginning in February.
The change comes as North American Breweries’ Costa Rica-based parent company, Florida Ice & Farm Co. (FIFCO) prepares to change its business model. Going forward, the company plans to focus more on the company’s commercial business, as well as streamline the company structure by aligning North American Breweries’ practice areas to those of FIFCO, said Ramón Mendiola, FIFCO’s CEO, in a statement.
Lachowski has two decades of experience in the beer industry, most of it with Anheuser-Busch InBev. He joined FIFCO in 2013 as general manager of the Central American beer and flavored malt beverage business. Lachowski, an Argentina national, will work out of the company’s Buffalo and Rochester offices.
North American Breweries (NAB) was formed in 2009. It owns and operates four U.S. breweries and four retail locations in New York, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington.
North American Breweries owns exclusive rights to import and market Labatt Blue and the Labatt beers in the United States. It also owns Genesee Brewery, which makes Genny and Genny Cream Ale.
The Genesee Brewery, based in Rochester, New York, makes and sells the historic line of Genesee beers, Dundee Ales & Lagers, the Original Honey Brown Lager and Seagram’s Escapes. The Washington and Oregon breweries handcraft Pyramid beer, including its famous Hefeweizen, Apricot Ale and Thunderhead I.P.A. Magic Hat is headquartered in Vermont and makes and sells a variety of craft beers including the popular #9. It also regularly features seasonal beers in its rotating series of Variety Packs.
North American Breweries also owns exclusive rights to import and market Labatt Blue and the Labatt family of beers, and Costa Rica’s Imperial brand of beer in the U.S.
FIFCO entered the United States with its purchase of North American Breweries in 2012. Headquartered in Heredia, it has a catalog of over 2000 products, sold in over 15 countries and has more than 6,000 employees.
FIFCO is structured as a holding company with three subsidiaries: Florida Bebidas (food and beverages), Florida Capitales (investments in bottling facilities), and Florida Inmobiliaria (investments in resort hotels).
The company was founded in Siquirres (Limon) in 1908 by two brothers of Jamaican origin, Rupert Cecilio and Stanley Lindo Morales. The newly formed company was dedicated to agriculture and the making of ice. The finca (property) in which the company was located was called “La Florida”, from which the company took its name of “Florida Ice and Farm Company”.
The brothers used an English name due to the fact that English was their native tongue, as it was for many Caribbean migrants who lived in the Atlantic region of Costa Rica. With that same company, they purchased the brewery and beverages business owned by José Traube in 1912. This is how a company that was mainly an agricultural concern entered the beverages market.
In 1958, the company purchased Cervecería Ortega. Founded in 1910 by the Ortega Family of Spanish origin, the Ortega brewery had been one of the main competitors with brands such as Imperial and Bavaria. The consolidation of these breweries allowed FIFCO to make investments in a new brewery and bottling plant  which it called “Cervecería Costa Rica” in 1966. The plant is located in Río Segundo de Alajuela.
In 1979 the company went public and commenced trading on the Bolsa Nacional de Valores (the Costa Rican National Stock Exchange).
In the years since FIFCO has diversified, adding brands such as Kern’s and Ducan, purchased the distribution rights for Pepsi Cola in the country, signed a contract with Tsingtao that allowed it to start exporting its beer and refreshments into China, as well as importing Chinese beverages into Costa Rica.
Under contract, FIFCO brews Heineken beer at its facility at La Ribera de Belen (Heredia).
Its beer brands include:
- Rock Ice
- Labatt (in the USA)