By Princewill Ekwujuru
THE bitters alcoholic beverage market has witnessed a new wave of competition arising from the market surge by fringe manufacturers, eroding the market shares of traditional brands in this market segment of beverages. The development has forced new product roll-outs, re-packaging and re-branding by the owners of the traditional brands, who are mainly multinational giants in the beverages industry.
The leading companies among the fringe competitors in the beverages market includes Global Beverages Nigeria Limited and Seakam Global Resources. The traditional bitters producers include Yem kem Nigeria, while the multinational giants that have entered the market are Guinness Nigeria Plc and Nigerian Breweries Plc, NB. Kasapreko Company Limited of Ghana had led the revolution of new players in the market ten years ago with its Alomo Bitters while Intercontinental Distillers Limited, IDL, another major player in the Nigerian beverages segment joined much later.
Since the Kasapreko’s Alomo revolution, names like Erujeje, Black Wood, Bajinotu Poka, Kerewa, Koboko, Kogbebe, Dadubule, Baby Oku, Pasa, Goko Bitters etc, have emerged to command significant market presence, eroding the market shares of both the traditional brands and those of the established big players and multinationals in the Nigerian beverages market.
Yoyo ‘Bitters, the traditional brand in the market from Yem Kem Nigeria had controlled the market before the Alomo revolution, and afterwards the multinationals launched a big bang with Guinness Nigeria Plc rolling out of Orijin, and Nigeria Breweries’ Ace Root. Also, another big Nigerian player in the segment, IDL joined the bitters fight with its Action Bitters.
As at date Vanguard Companies & Markets (C&M) findings reveal that the market share of these major manufacturers are being depleted day-in-day-out, while they respond with several rebranding and repackaging strategies. A consumer, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, who simply gave his name as Wasiu, at Mile 2 bus-stop, said the fringe manufacturers are making much money from consumers. According to him, the reason is because the fringe players are always on hand to serve the mobile society, especially the urchins, motor boys, labourers,’ scavengers, commercial bus drivers and conductors some civil servants who take a gulp on their way to the office.
He also said that the micro and small manufacturers have actually captured the low end of the market, “check it out, you can’t find Ace Roots, Orijin and Alomo easily anymore on the hawkers, reason being that carrying the PET bottles, glass bottles or cans of Alomo, Orijin or Ace Root will be too heavy for hawkers to carry or even run to serve a customer. Moreover, cans are perceived as weapons, during riots at garages, so the outright ban.”
Another consumer, who simply gave his name as Fatai, a Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, RTEAN, member, at Okokomaiko bus-stop, corroborating the above speaker, said, Orijin, Alomo, and Ace Root cannot be found on the head of hawkers any longer, we don’t have time to begin to look for where to buy them. It is only the rich who go to restaurants to have a chilled Orijin, Ace Root or Alomo, we don’t. We are on the move. Ace Root is not in sachet,” he retorted.
Rafiu Amolegbe, a bricklayer, said he takes two bottles of the cheaper bitters a day. “It is cheaper, with N50 to N150, I can drink a sachet or small plastic bottle from other producers. For Orijin in plastic bottle is N400 and the glass bottle costs between N250 to N500 depending on the restaurant,” he pointed out.
According to C&M findings, some herbal medicine producers have now shifted to the production of alcoholic beverages similar to bitters without license from National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC. In the quest to make quick money, it is very clear that many micro manufacturers produce bitters under unhygienic conditions which adversely affect consumers’ health, C&M also found out.
Big manufacturers are trailing the micro producers with better brand names and manufacturing standards. They also see the consumers’ needs for the bitters beverages.
According to the Sales Director of NB, Hubert Eze, “the quest to meet the need of consumers and reconnect them to an era when herbal drinks held sway to cure many health challenges was the major reason the company ventured into the bitters market. The drink (Ace Root) is blended with African herbs mixed with spirit,” he noted. He added: “We want to take our consumers back to the root. NB is in the market with a unique selling point. The drink boasts of at least 14 natural ingredients, amazing alcopop taste, and less sugar and alcohol.”
Guinness Nigeria has sold millions of liters of Orijin in the country since its inception. But has bigger aspirations, with plans to expand into Ghana and compete with Accra-based Alomo bitters and others in the market. The bitters market is of two categories, the alcohol and non-alcohol. The market has become fertile for massive growth as more consumers look out to drink an alcoholic beverage that is believed to have health benefits to the human body.
The market has also seen more growth in terms of expansions, investments and technology as well as revenue generation particularly to small manufacturers. Some of the stakeholders told C&M that creating a new market in the Nigerian economy has never been easy, noting that most indigenous markets created by local companies who out of innovation and diligence, came up with the various alcoholic bitters, have elicited doubts, whether they can stand the test of time. Hence, they are hardly patronized by middle to upper income groups.
According to C&M findings, bitters were first produced at garages on a micro and subsistence scale until the commercial production of Alomo bitters which was scientifically formulated and meticulously researched by the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine in Ghana, a World Health Organization affiliate.
In recent times, the market has seen the influx of new bitters flooding the market and these products have grown increasingly popular in many households with massive advertising spend on television and radio. These adverts seem to appeal to the sensual emotions of consumers as the magic to super performance.