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We are 100 % local content compliant, Sona Breweries Exec Director

T he brewery industry  has continued to grow in lips and bounnds, and the market  growing all the same with companies  improving on their product line, and  strategies to scoop  bigger market share are marshalled out, as well consumers satisfaction is paramount, in this interview, Thomson Owoka, Executive Director, Sona Breweries disclosed to Princewill Ekwujuru that aside the above, added value is required to hit the target market. Except

Sona Breweries Exec Director

How do you view the brewery industry in Nigeria
oThe brewery industry has been able to stand the test of time judging from the fluctuation of the economy from 70s till date and when compared with other African economies.  The performance of the industry is a function of so many things and of a particular note is that Nigeria economy thrives on social and cultural values. Apart from health issues religious leaning, Nigeria is a country where every social event is not complete without drinks. Even when you refuse to drink or refuse to buy, people will buy it on your behalf. These events have been driving the volume of the industry.

The per capita consumption, as at today  is very low, when you compare the total volume in the industry to the population of Nigeria . Nigeria is estimated to be about 150 million people and the total volume as at 2009 was just about 12 million metric litres and if you compare that with South Africa with a population of about 55 million people, the total consumption was just about 28 million metric litres. If it is on population basis, it means there is still a lot of opportunity that lie ahead for Nigeria .

But the only challenge is the disposable income. If their disposable income is enhanced, definitely they will spend it on food and drinks. But when the purse is lean, they will re-prioritise their spending pattern, this will affect the industry.  Another way to look at it is  the state of Nigerian economy itself. If we are in the state where almost every body is complaining, then we can say that if the economy picks up and the disposable income is enhanced, then the industry will grow further.

How have you survived, with your analysis as a company
As a company, we started in 1982 and between then and 1987, the initial investments were fully paid by way of dividends to the investors, because the whole business was buoyant and quite prosperous. But along the line, there were challenges.

First was the ban on the importation of grains. So many industries faced the difficulty of converting from imported barley to local grains. They were done not because they do not have the necessary fund to do it, but perhaps lack of faith and belief on the Nigerian economy. You need to belief on a particular economy for you to stand.

You hear some comments that Nigeria’s economy is bad, but if you are able to identify some great potentials of an economy and invest in line with the potential into the future, then your position will be different from the investor who wants to come in and do quick business and vacate the place. When the challenge of the ban of grains came, we knew that it will not be permanent; we continued to invest in Nigeria by converting our technologies to use the local raw material. Now we are the only brewery in Nigeria that is using 100 percent local grains without imported input.

What is the implication of this local content usage
First, we are today positioned in such a way that no matter any challenges Nigeria ’s economy faces in terms of  ability to finance its import, Sona Brewery will not be affected. Secondly. we are using local grains produced by local farmers who depend on the production for sustenance.

Through that employment the farmers are able to generate funds which in turn will continue to aid the consumption of what we produce.
What are the savings on usage of local raw materials against importation

It may not directly amount to savings. It is possible that the cost of imported barley may be cheaper. Today, it is cheaper to bring in a 40 ft container than transporting the same container from Apapa Port to Kaduna, but the question is: Are we building our economy or continuously building somebody’s economy.

Usage of local grains has positive multiplier effects on the economy. Today, Sona is one of the drivers of Nigeria ’s economy because our investment is targeted using local materials. All the industries we have, whether be it the brewery, the glass industry,  all use local materials.
Where do you place Sona Brewery in the industry

It depends on what assessment. Today, there are four major brewery industries. Any parameter such as size and name, brand positioning, control of market by regions used to assess the industry would produce different results. No two industries operate at the same level because they may not start with the same capital or at the same time.

Do you have idea of creating your own farms or buy from open market
Presently we are buying from the open market. We don’t need to necessarily create farms as a brewery because that is not our primary business. But if there is need for us to do it, we will not hesitate, but if  it can be outsourced, it will encourage local farmers by providing seedlings and giving them commitment that we will buy whatever they produce, it is better.

Is it as a result of your brands
Way back there were challenges when some international investors left this country but those of us that could a vision in this country will continue to forge ahead. It got to a point that in house, we were able to develop our own recipe and built strength for technology. Having realized this, we asked ourselves the need to continue to work for franchise of trade. We decided to do away with the foreign trade mark and created our own trade mark and registered it globally. Every trade is localized.

Where in Nigerian zones do you have your strength
All the brands are national brands but realizing that cultural and beliefs of people differ and this must be respected in the distribution of products. As a company, we are privileged to have six brewery plants in Nigeria which are strategically located to cover every part of Nigeria . This has given us advantage of distribution.  We recognize that every product has some strength and weaknesses in some areas.

You are not strong on Above- the -Line campaign, what is responsible
That is subjective. Except you are a follower, you may not know what is happening. You must be strategic in allowing your market spends to drive along with the geographical presence of your brand. What are your target audiences for your brands which will determine whether you should be heavy on Above -the- Line or Below- the- Line campaign. Your audience and market you will determine their interest. What is relevant to them. Today in Nigeria , clients have played on the liquid content, packaging but now is added value. What drives consumption now is the added value a client can add to the consumer. It is a matter of priority and the client does the mix. Where is the consumer and his choice.

It appears your products are positioned above the ordinary
If you look at the spread of Nigerian population and spread of wealth don’t follow. So if you want to choose positioning in the market, you have to clearly identify the role you want to play. For instance 70 percent of the population can only buy 30 percent of products and majority of consumption is at the middle class while those at the top though have the wealth but don’t buy. So most clients must plan well. A client must target all the category of the market but start gradually.

What is your niche in the market
Our ability to product with local grains is a major plus and because of that we have been able to build brand equity. What matters in marketing communication is what activities that will give quick win. We apportion our limited marketing communication budget in such a way that at any time we are able to deliver the expectations of the consumer.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.