BRIO AB (spelled with capital letters all the way) is a classic Swedish toy, pram and board game company and definetively The household brand for steady and trustworthy prams and toys for generations of children in many countries.
With roots going back to 1884, BRIO was formally founded in 1908 as Bröderna Ivarsson, Osby ("The Ivarsson Bros., Osby") by Viktor Ivarsson, Anton Ivarsson and Emil Ivarsson. Three brothers who took over their parents business. (It has been claimed they were given the business in order to not emigrate to America!) In these days the catalogue contained all sorts of household items, toys being just a part of their assortment.
Viktor, Anton and Emil would greatly expand the business and the next generation, more specifically Lennart Ivarsson, took BRIO international. Brio has since the 1940's been a Purveyor to the Royal Swedish CourtIn 1984 the company formally changed its name to BRIO AB. BRIO was also a toy importer with well-known brands like Märklin model trains and Barbie dolls in their "stable".
Board games were not the main product of Brio but some where produced fairly early. At this early stage the games were sold under trade mark name of BRIO, but later a dedicated board game arm called Joker would be established, owned by Brio wholesaler subsidiary Scanditoys AB (est. in 1919). Many Joker games - the flaggship being Alfapet (known as Scrabble elsewhere) and held on licence - were manufactured in Denmark, although Brios head office and factory traditonally was placed in Osby, a small town in the northeastern part of South-Swedish province of Skåne. Some famous wooden games made in Sweden like the Labyrintspel continued to be sold under the BRIO label.
In 1984 BRIO purchased Alga in neighbouring village of Vittsjö, from the Bonnier Group, and the brand Joker would eventually be phased out. In connection with take-over of UK-based Spear's Games by Mattel, the licence for Alfabet/Scrabble was revoked. Instead BRIO - owner of the name Alfapet - and Alga published a new Alfapet, just slightly different to Scrabble. The first non-Alfapet Scrabble in Sweden was published by Spear's but in later years by successor Mattel.
In 2004 - after some years with financial difficulties - the Ivarsson family had allowed Swedish investment group Proventus to aquire a majority of the shares in BRIO. The same year virtually all production was moved to South-East Asia and two years later the offices moved from Osby to Malmö. At the same time subsidiary Alga vacated their legendary premises in Vittsjö in favour of the new BRIO head office in Malmö.
The classic BRIO building in Osby is now used for other purposes but a nice toy shop is still to be found at ground floor. On the other side of the street, the old warehouse, with a railway track leading to it, has been converted to toy museum called Lekoseum ("Toy'o'seum" or "Play'o'seum'")) mainly devoted to toys but also containing a small exhibit on Alga and an even smaller one on the board games of BRIO and Joker. Not to be missed are the two railway coaches - on that previously mentioned railway track - which contains special exhibits on Märklin and Barbie.
In 2013 then owners Proventus sold the pram division to British competitor Britax
and in 2014 Scanditoy were liquidated due to losses. Remaining in the company were the wooden toys and the board games division Alga (still a registrered limited company, but nowadays for all practical purposes just a brand name for BRIO's board games). In 2015 German giant Ravensburger
purchased BRIO and Alga.
Former company parent BRIO Holding AB is now known as Taxen Holding AB (unclear status, and still appearently owned by Proventus) and BRIO is instead directly owned by Ravensburger. BRIO's international representatives has largerly been replaced by Ravensburger's ditto, but a few remain in primarily the Nordic countries.
NOTE 1: Several games from Alga has been sold in other countries, like Denmark and Poland, under the BRIO label.
NOTE 2: There is a chain of toy shops in Norway, Lekehuset Partner, that trades under the BRIO name.
- Lekehuset Partner is a retailer, Scanditoy is a wholesaler, and Brio Promotion is a promotional/advertising company. These are not publishers.
- Alga is a subsidiary of BRIO.