Spotlight: Premium beer wars loom as new entrants seek market share

Brasserie des Mille Collines (BMC) revved up the battle in the premium beer market since it entered the fray, claiming 18 per cent of the market share as competition for consumers in the country’s booming beer industry gathers momentum. The brewer says that Skol— its principal product on the market—is targeting to capture 25 per cent of the premium beer market by next year.  Premium beer accounts for just 31 per cent of Rwanda’s entire beer market.

Brasserie des Mille Collines (BMC) revved up the battle in the premium beer market since it entered the fray, claiming 18 per cent of the market share as competition for consumers in the country’s booming beer industry gathers momentum.

The brewer says that Skol— its principal product on the market—is targeting to capture 25 per cent of the premium beer market by next year.  Premium beer accounts for just 31 per cent of Rwanda’s entire beer market.

The entry of BMC broke the longstanding monopoly of Bralirwa, which by far is still the country’s largest beer maker.

Bralirwa has, however, witnessed a sharp decline in market share even as its profit margins have continued to register strong growth, largely aided by a hike in prices.

Recently, Bralirwa increased the prices of its flagship beers, Mutzing and Primus, by Rwf100 saying that the move was meant to cater for increasing transport costs of imported raw materials.

According to Thomas Weingarten, the Managing Director of BMC, Skol will capture the targeted market share saying its 100 per cent malt content gives it medium alcohol content.

The unforeseen crack to this monopoly has initiated bitter rivalry between Bralirwa and BMC with the latter criticising the former of resorting to unsavoury business practices.

Skol alleged that Bralirwa threatened to withdraw its (Bralirwa) coolers from retailers, especially bars, if they sold Skol products, an issue that the former raised with the Ministry of Trade and which was partly settled until a silent war erupted last month.

 Kanyandekwe Mukoko, the Sales Manager of BMC, said that Bralirwa’s sales representatives had resorted to removing posters and adverts of Skol and restraining bar owners from selling Skol.

“The sales representative of Bralirwa removed our ABC (two small bottles of Skol) fixed on at Bar Umubano in Karangazi, Nyagatare District,” he said.

He further noted that some retailer in Rwamihaga near the Ugandan border revoked orders of 40 crates of Skol beer they had made after Bralirwa representatives threatened to take their coolers.

Weingarten said that: “We believe this is unfair competition, it should be the quality of our products and the customers’ choice to determine the market competition.”

Efforts to get a comment from Bralirwa were futile as the company’s Communications Manager, Alice Akineza, informed Business Times that no one was willing to comment on the issue

Bralirwa and BMC are also facing stiff competition from imported beers, especially Bell and Tusker—which are manufactured by East African Breweries Ltd. The competition recently forced Bralirwa to cut the prices its Heineken beer from Rwf1,200 to Rwf1,000.

“We have seen an increase in demand for our products. Thus, we want to grow the market deeper unless the economy is affected,” Andrew Kulayige, Customer Care and Marketing Manager of EABL in Charge of the Great Lakes Region recently told Business  Times.

dnyesiga@gmail.com

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