For nearly 75 years of aggressive market expansion and domination of several categories of the beverage market, Nigerian Breweries kept its long, restless arms away from the wine and spirit segments. All that changed with the Heineken initiated acquisition of Distell Nigeria which has a wide array of spirits, ciders and alcoholic and non alcoholic wines in its repertoire. As the year draws to its end, engagement with Distell’s Nigerian shareholders is drawing to a close, setting the stage for NB plc’s baptism of wine and spirit.
For decades, Nigerian brewery behemoth, NB plc has been synonymous with lager. The Heineken company has created or manufactured some of Nigeria’s most iconic lager brands. Starting with Star lager which entered the market in 1949, followed by Gulder, a decade after Nigeria’s independence in 1970. Her aggressive expansion took it to the malt segment and in 1976, the iconic Maltina was launched into the market. Later came Legend in 1992. Today the organization boasts one of the largest arsenals of top sellers in the beverage market with an ambitious offering covering almost every category of the market.
Until now, Nigerian breweries never had its long, restless hands in the spirit or wine categories, unlike arch rivals Guinness plc. While Guinness by virtue of its Diageo roots has been able to offer a wide array of wines, spirits and other categories, Nigerian breweries has been out of the action. All that was going to change sooner or later. The wine and spirit market in Nigeria was always too huge for any forward looking organization of the size of Nigerian breweries to keep her hands off.
The Distell collection
The gong sounded earlier this year when on May 31 the company officially notified the Nigerian Stock exchange of a juicy offer from its mother company, Heineken, to acquire an 80% stake in Distell Nigeria which until then had operated in Nigeria as a Heineken subsidiary. Distell International is a wholly owned Heineken company while Distell Nigeria is 80% owned by Heineken and 20% owned by Nigerian shareholders.
Since then not much has been heard but reliable information seeping out of Iganmu, the company’s head office location signals that talks with the Nigerian shareholders are now at an advanced stage and any moment from now the deal will be officially signed off and the merger will be executed. This promises to open a new vista with the entry of the rugged marketing heads at Iganmu into the exciting, highly competitive but also highly rewarding Nigerian wines and spirits sector.
Distell Nigeria manufactures a wide range of wines, spirits and ciders and also imports products from Distell SA. Those products will automatically become part of the Nigerian breweries arsenal of brands. To be counted among them are the well known Amarula, wine products include JC Leroux, Nederburg, Drostdy Hof and 4th Street. Spirits include Bains and Knights, non alcoholic Chamdor and ciders Hunters and Savannah.
As we sit on the ring sides to enjoy the usually dramatic marketing strategies of NB plc with expected relaunches and repackaging, consumers should watch out for a Nigerian Breweries’ version of UB40s chart busting Red Red Wine hitting the charts soon.