Namibian Brew Sells Like Hot Cakes

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Eighteen months after recovering from a three-year stagnation in sales, Windhoek Lager has taken the export market by storm with over 60% of the product destined for abroad. Though the premium brew is not that much of a hot favourite among local tipplers compared to Tafel, it has become very popular in the region where large quantities are guzzled. Mild in bitterness with a rich golden colour, its alcohol content stands at 4% and the energy content at approximately 138 kilojoules per 100 ml. Chairman of the Ohlthaver & List Group of Companies, Sven Thieme, says Windhoek Lager, which is known in the international market for its quality and purity, has become a drink of choice among consumers in 22 countries outside Namibia’s borders. “We export 60% of our production and the remaining 40% is consumed locally,” he explained. The Namibian brew is particularly popular in Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, England, USA, Germany, Sweden and Australia, among others. Last year, Windhoek Lager won a gold award from the Deutsche Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft in Berlin. During the period 2002 to 2005, Namibian beer was not competitive enough in the international market until 18 months ago when the industry applied its turn-around strategy and doubled its investment in the market, Thieme says. One of the officials of the Namibia Breweries office said the steady increase in demand for Namibian beer in neighbouring countries where it is marketed as a premium brew has been promoted by the high number of Namibian expatriates in countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom, where NBL’s brands such as Windhoek Lager and Windhoek Light have cut a respectable market share. As one of the last independent breweries in the region, Namibia Breweries has a brewing capacity of approximately 1.5 million hectolitres, and due to the relatively small size of the domestic market, the company took a strategic decision to grow its export sales in order to achieve the maximum economies of scale required. Thieme adds that plans are underway to expand the African market by entering countries such as neighbouring Zambia where millions drink lager beer. The African market plays an important role in the overall business strategy of NBL and in particular South Africa and Angola have been the focal points in NBL’s strategy. Other African markets where NBL is still building the equity of its brands with marketing initiatives include Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania. “We appreciate the support our beer is getting. We will continue to brew quality beer,” Thieme told New Era. He urged Namibians to continue supporting the product, adding that a huge amount of profit is re-invested in the country – evidence of which is some of the projects Ohlthaver & List is involved in. The initiation of projects has also resulted in the creation of jobs for Namibians. Ohlthaver & List currently employs about 4 000 Namibians. Looking at its annual turnover for 2004, the company generated gross revenue of N$1,2 billion. However, it should be noted this revenue represents a 17-month period as NBL changed its reporting period from end of January to the end of June. Namibia Breweries is the eleventh largest brewery in Africa. Namibia Breweries Limited brews its beer in strict accordance with the oldest brewing law, the Reinheitsgebot of 1516, which only permits the use of malted barley, hops and water. No other additives or preservatives are mixed in the final product. In addition, all the ingredients are certified as not genetically modified.