Is anyone hungry around here? Admittedly, this is a very bad, but sadly typical joke that foreigners tell Hungarians. As a matter of fact, there could be some nugget of truth in there: Hungary is an agricultural powerhouse (accounting for 3.6% of its GDP, compared to an EU average of less than 2%), with its large fields and plains (due to the flat terrain of the Carpathian Basin) being the most prominent features of its landscape.
But regardless of agriculture, Hungary can boast many other highly dynamic sectors (research, electronics, pharmaceutics, among others) that gave way to the rise of numerous famous Hungarian brands and companies exported worldwide. And while their actual origins might be unknown to most people outside Hungary, we’ll try to rectify this to present you the most wholeheartedly Hungarian brands and businesses with a global outreach.
Although this company is very famous among academics and students around the world, few people know that Prezi, is actually a Hungarian company (even I thought, for a while, that it was British or American). Established in 2009 by Peter Arvai, Peter Halacsy and Adam Somlai-Fischer, the company has now more than 50 million users, cementing the brand as one of the most notable, visible and widely used Hungarian success stories. Thanks to the implementation of the visual storytelling technique, it is one of the best, cooler, and more complex alternatives to other presentation tools like PowerPoint or Keynotes.
One of the first investors was TED, the world-famous organization where independent, world-renown and completely unknown speakers present their opinions, findings and more with the use of an interactive presentation (as in Prezi). Thanks to Prezi’s business model, students, teachers or anyone can use it as a free presentation software, making it a viable option especially for high-school or college students.
MOL (Magyar Olaj or Hungarian Oil)
The MOL Group is Hungary’s biggest oil and gas company headquartered in Budapest, also owner of several foreign companies like Slovakia’s Slovnaft oil refinery and Croatia’s INA. MOL is the most profitable enterprise in Hungary, with net profits of $1.1 billion in 2018. It is also the third most highly-valued company in Central and Eastern Europe (behind Poland’s Orlen and Czech Republic’s Skoda Auto) and placed among Fortune Global 500’s list of the world’s largest companies.
A leading company in several parts of Central Europe, MOL is involved in the entire oil and gas industry process, from exploration to production and refinery. Apart from its industrial power, MOL is also a highly visible brand throughout Hungarian society and is one of the main sponsors of the Hungarian football team – even for Slovakia’s DAC Dunajska Streda football team, providing large funds for the stadium, due to the fact the team is owned by the CEO of Slovnaft and located in a majority Hungarian town.
Certainly known among the millennials and younger generation, LogMeIn has provided countless hours of multiplayer entertainment with its Hamachi service for people throughout the years. Those countless hours spent in front of the computer, trying to set up a multiplayer server for a game will never be forgotten.
What people might not know is that LogMeIn was established in 2003 in Budapest by Michael Simon and Marton Anka, acquiring Hamachi a short time afterwards. The company provides cloud-based remote connectivity services, giving access to remote computers for users and administrators. And even though the company currently operates out of Boston, its roots are unmistakably Hungarian.
Probably unknown even to Hungarians, Videoton is one of the largest electronic manufacturing service providers in Central and Eastern Europe, being in the top 10 in the EU and top 40 worldwide. Videoton, based in Szekesfehervar but with a presence in other countries like Bulgaria and Ukraine, supplies multiple electronic commodities, parts, modules, complete products or equipment.
A strong illustration of Hungary’s industrial power, Videoton mainly supplies the automotive industry, household appliances and industrial applications markets. Just like MOL, Videoton also sponsored a football team, the MOL Vidi FC (formerly Videoton FC) – a sure soft-power tool for companies wishing to gain visibility in Hungary
So, now that you are probably actually hungry (sorry), another one of Hungary’s tastiest and most well-known companies is Pick, based in Szeged. Established in 1869, Pick produces a wide variety of meat-based products, most notably its famous winter salami (as pictured above), of which from 20 to 40 tonnes leave the Szeged plant on a daily basis.
As Hungary and Hungarians themselves are famous for their unique cooking style and tasty dishes, Pick supplements the idea that Hungarians really do know their way around a person’s taste buds and belly. As the factory is located in the region of the Tisza river, the cultivation of plants and animal husbandry are very beneficial and guarantee that the products made at Pick use the highest quality Hungarian meat and vegetables.
Egri Bikaver (Bull’s Blood of Eger)
Now that everyone has had their mouth-full of the tasty Pick salami, it’s time to drink something. And what better to drink than one of the most famous Hungarian wines: I present, Egri Bikaver. It is the most famous red wine from Hungary (supplementing the more famous white wines from Tokay).
Although there are many vineyards throughout the country that produce this type of wine, the exact formula and standards specific to the region must be up-kept by all of these producers for them to be able to use the designation Egri Bikaver.
It’s probably not a good idea to drink Unicum after red wine (hello, hangover), but to have to have a complete list of interesting Hungarian companies that have a long history and tradition, Unicum needs to be mentioned. Zwack was established as early as 1790 in Budapest, and it makes liqueurs and spirits, the most famous (advertised worldwide) of them being the herbal liqueur known as Unicum, made from a secret blend of more than forty different herbs and spices. Unicum is undoubtedly one of the most famous drinks in Hungary and often cited as the national drink of the nation.
As an interesting tit-bit, the company was established by Dr. Jozsef Zwack, the Royal Physician to the Habsburg Court for Emperor Joseph II. After more than two centuries of operation, Zwack is one of the largest distilleries in Central Europe, producing and exporting more than 200 types of liqueurs and spirits. Egészségetekre!
Written by Mark Szabo
An international relations and European politics student at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, Márk grew up in a bi-cultural Slovak-Hungarian family, stoking his interest in Central European politics and cross-national relations. A former intern at the Bratislava-based Globsec Institute, Márk aims for a career in diplomacy. He joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. To check out his latest articles, it’s right here!