Cote d’Ivoire’s war of the beers turns bit­ter

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire — “In our house, the beer is Bock!” boasts the fa­mil­iar slo­gan for the lager that is Cote d’Ivoire’s mar­ket leader, brewed by Soli­bra.

“Beer Ivoire, loved by Ivo­rians!” says a com­pet­ing ad­vert for Ivoire lager, brewed by new­com­ers Bras­sivoire.

On posters and huge bill­boards around the West African coun­try, the ri­val ads, of­ten side by side, com­pete for at­ten­tion.

Since Bras­sivoire’s ar­rival in the coun­try’s emerg­ing beer mar­ket in April 2016, the two brew­eries have been bat­tling it out in what some ob­servers are call­ing “the beer war”.

Con­cerns have been raised, how­ever, about the ef­fect the mar­ket­ing war could have on im­pres­sion­able young­sters.

“When we say ‘the beer war’, we’re talk­ing about a real war, make no mis­take about it,” said Jean-Bap­tiste Koffi, pres­i­dent of the fed­eral con­sumers’ union (UFC), which rep­re­sents 125 groups.

“They don’t pull any punches.”

Soli­bra is owned by the French group Cas­tel, present in Cote d’Ivoire since 1955. The new kid on the block, Bras­sivoire, is owned by the Dutch gi­ant Heineken and trad­ing firm CFAO.

In just over a year since set­ting up shop in Cote d’Ivoire, Bras­sivoire has man­aged to grab a third of the mar­ket — and it is gear­ing up to take more.

In April, Bras­sivoire opened a 150 mil­lion euro ($177 mil­lion) plant just out­side Abidjan, ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing about 160 mil­lion liters of beer per year.

The mar­ket in Cote d’Ivoire is a lu­cra­tive one. Nearly 30 mil­lion liters of beer is con­sumed an­nu­ally in the coun­try of more than 23 mil­lion peo­ple.

How­ever, the UFC con­sumers’ union is not happy, an­nounc­ing a cam­paign against ads and bill­boards placed near schools.

And the CAFCI body that mon­i­tors this kind of ad­ver­tis­ing in Cote d’Ivoire has de­nounced mar­ket­ing tac­tics, which, it said, could in­flu­ence im­pres­sion­able young­sters.

Soli­bra Deputy Di­rec­tor Roger Adou ac­knowl­edged that the two ri­vals had got car­ried away in their mar­ket­ing bat­tle.

“It’s not healthy that we see beer bot­tles mar­keted to mi­nors who are very vul­ner­a­ble ev­ery­where in Abidjan,” he said.

Bar and restau­rant own­ers in Cote d’Ivoire have other con­cerns how­ever.

Al­though the av­er­age bot­tle of beer costs con­sumers 500 CFA (89 cents), shop and bar own­ers pay a de­posit to the brew­ery to stock their shelves.

Once the beers are sold and cus­tomers have brought back the bot­tles, the sellers re­turn the bot­tles to the brew­eries to get their de­posit back.

But rev­enues are not enough to off­set the price of the bot­tle, they com­plain.

“Our profit mar­gins are weak. The bot­tle costs more than the liq­uid,” Gna­houa said.

The brew­eries have promised to ad­dress the is­sue.

But an­a­lyst Do­minique Gnan­goin sees no end in sight in the bat­tle for beer mar­ket supremacy.

“The sec­tor has a bright fu­ture in Cote d’Ivoire, where the war will get in­creas­ingly fu­ri­ous,” he said.

ISSOUF SANOGO / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A ven­dor sells her goods next to a bill­board ad­ver­tis­ing Bock beer in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. Bock and brewer Bras­sivoire are locked in a mar­ket­ing bat­tle.

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