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Economy forces malt manufacturers to re-strategize

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By Princewill Ekwujuru &Blessing Adegor

Nigeria’s economic downturn has forced malt drink manufacturers to rethink their marketing strategies occasioned by dwindling consumer purchasing power.

As a result of the economic situation, malt manufacturers have introduced smaller packs of 33 centilitre PET bottles and cans to drive sales. They have also deployed direct marketing as a tool to reach existing and prospective consumers.

The measures include shelf layout displays deployed through supermarkets that make consumers make impulse purchases and free treats, by giving out one free drink thereby increasing consumers’ desire for more purchases.

These developments have increased competition in the market among the major brands such as Maltina and Hi Malt, manufactured by Nigeria Breweries (NB) Plc, Malta Guinness, Dubic malt and Orijin from the stable of Guinness Nigeria Plc.

Vanguard Companies and Markets (C&M) findings show that Malt drink is big business in Nigeria, as consumption has increased, occasioned by the marketing tactics by the manufacturers.

It was also discovered that the brands have divided consumers along taste line, making competition for market share among manufacturers stiffer.

Guinness and NB that are competing in the midi PET bottles and can categories are taking advantage of the economic situation and poor consumer buying power.

Consumers speak

Some consumers that spoke to C&M commended the introduction of midi PET bottle and can malt drinks, saying it is a step in the right direction, and further stated that the manufacturers have a good insight into the consumers’ pocket.

A trader who sells various malt brands at Alaba Suru market, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, who simply gave her name as Folashade said:  ”Consumers now go for the midi malt brands because they are cheap and can easily be handled due to their size. Good for on-the-go consumers. I can tell you that the PET plastic bottles and can are doing well. The PET bottles are a welcome development.”

A consumer, Njideka Okafor, who claims to be an ardent consumer of malt, said when the economy became difficult and tight, “I have not missed my malt drink for the singular reason that I can still afford it. I also buy the PET bottle because I can sip and cover it. That mostly attracts me to the 33cl PET bottle, and they are elegant in shape.”

Distributors’ response

Miss Biola Balogun, Co-owner of M.B.Owutraco Nigeria Limited, Alaba Suru, Lagos-Badagry Expressway stated: “Consumers prefer more of the PET bottle malt drinks of 33cl and 25cl. The masses prefer to go for what is affordable. The 40cl plastic malt drinks hardly get sales because consumers believe they get the same nutritional value from the 33cl and 25cl.”

Mrs. Elizabeth Olaoye, a depot owner, along Lagos-Badagry Expressway said: “Those that buy and drink malt do so because of their promise of vitamins and body nourishments. The consumers are not missing their enjoyment of the brands in these hard times because of the smaller sizes in the market. The manufacturers of these brands have done well. It is a step in the right direction.”

Two distributors, James Njama and Eugene Okwu of Solflix Enterprises and Magnenimus Stores, respectively, have different views on the sales margins of both categories, but could not give statistics of the sales. Njama confirmed that there is real war of sale between the malt drinks in 33 centilitre category.

Marketing experts’ views

A marketing expert, Jude Anuforo of Matrix Marketing said: “These important versions are finding a niche of their own by satisfying current lifestyle interests. Malt-based soft drink producers have certainly found inventive ways of breathing new life into old-time brands by updating the products and appealing to new consumer groups through the PET bottle and can malt drinks.”

Elvis Udemba, of the same company stated: “Sales of non-alcoholic malt drinks alone will increase 54 per cent in the next five years in Nigeria as a result of the new centilitre range.  With smart marketing, manufacturers of malt-based non-alcoholic drinks can simultaneously appeal to all health-conscious consumers in the market place. The PET malt bottle and can have now turned out to be preferred in most social gatherings, because they are affordable.”

Manufacturer speaks

Managing Director, Guinness Nigeria Plc, Mr. Peter Ndegwa said: “Our consumers are always at the heart of what we do and the launch of these PET bottles is no exception. We recognise that our consumers are always on the move and so these portable PET bottles will provide a convenient means for our consumers to enjoy their Malta Guinness, Dubic malt and Orijin Zero on the go.”

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