Q&A: Growth on tap for Al­maza

Al­maza makes the most of a boom in the beer mar­ket

Executive Magazine - - Contents - By Paul Cochrane

Ex­ec­u­tive met with Mon­isha Abra­ham, gen­eral manager at Brasserie Al­maza, to dis­cuss the busi­ness of beer in the coun­try, mar­ket share, ex­ports and plans for a new brew­ery.

E

You re­cently came to Beirut to man­age Al­maza, which is owned by Dutch group Heineken. How long have you been with the Heineken Com­pany?

I started work­ing at Al­maza in July [2014], and be­fore that I was in the Nether­lands as the re­gional mar­ket­ing manager for the MENA re­gion. I’ve been with the com­pany for nine years.

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In early 2014, Al­maza had 74 per­cent of the beer mar­ket, ac­cord­ing to BLOM Bank data. Has your share of the mar­ket been im­pacted fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of new brands, such as Beirut Beer and Colonel?

It is not our pol­icy to talk about mar­ket share, but our share was not af­fected by the com­pe­ti­tion that came in, in fact vol­umes have grown com­pared to 2013, and we seem to be on a win­ning track.

E

Why have sales grown given the cur­rent lo­cal and re­gional sit­u­a­tion?

The mar­ket is grow­ing. There is ex­cite­ment about beer, the new en­trants and the cat­e­gory, and what has partly helped are our in­no­va­tions, as well as more and more peo­ple reach­ing the legal drink­ing age.

E

Was this a rea­son for di­ver­si­fy­ing your of­fer­ings?

For us, in­no­va­tion is key — not only in Alamza, but Heineken, to in­crease the global in­no­va­tion rate to 6 per­cent by 2020, to cre­ate ex­cite­ment and cater to con­sumer needs. Over the last three years we in­tro­duced Light, Radler and Al Rayess, and all are do­ing

very well for us, and not can­ni­bal­iz­ing the Al­maza brand.

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Un­like many other food and bev­er­age items, the price of a bot­tle of Al­maza has not in­creased for years. How are you man­ag­ing to stay so price com­pet­i­tive?

We are look­ing at the econ­omy and what con­sumers re­ally need at this time. Al Rayess is re­tail­ing for LBP 1,000 ($0.66), and one of the rea­sons we in­tro­duced it was to pro­vide con­sumers with a good Le­banese beer at an af­ford­able price.

E

Can you give a break­down of sales in your port­fo­lio?

I can give an in­di­ca­tion. The Al­maza brand is about 85 per­cent of to­tal vol­umes, and then Heineken brands about 15 per­cent.

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Why did you de­cide to do spe­cial bot­tle pack­ag­ing for Al­maza at cer­tain clubs and bars?

It is done in other mar­kets — and this was the first time in Le­banon — to show our part­ner­ship with an or­ga­ni­za­tion; it cre­ates ex­cite­ment and some­thing that you can connect with as a con­sumer. It is small scale, but we [also] did it for the whole brand, as seen with the World Cup 2014 cam­paign. We had eight dif­fer­ent na­tional flags on the bot­tles.

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Was it a suc­cess­ful cam­paign?

It was ex­tremely suc­cess­ful, and touched on the true in­sight of the Le­banese, as yes, you sup­port dif­fer­ent coun­tries but [you’re] still Le­banese first, just like Al­maza is the num­ber one Le­banese beer brand.

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Have ex­ports of Al­maza been af­fected by the con­flict in Syria? It was quite a good mar­ket be­fore, I be­lieve.

We con­tinue to ex­port to Syria and it’s a well known brand, and we also sell to some­thing like 25 to 30 mar­kets around the world.

E

Were sum­mer sales down be­cause of weaker tourism? In­deed, a statis­tic float­ing around is that around 70 per­cent of beer is con­sumed in the sum­mer months.

There are two fac­tors. Yes, tourism was af­fected but it did not af­fect [our] busi­ness too much, although we would have grown more if there had been more tourism. The sea­son­al­ity of beer, in­deed, is present, but you see that in many coun­tries. What I find now, more and more, is that although the sum­mer is re­lated to beer, the ex­cite­ment that the beer cat­e­gory has — and if it con­tin­ues — will help re­duce that sea­son­al­ity to a de­gree.

E

Are you con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a mi­cro brew­ery here?

When [it] comes to Le­banon, no. We will fo­cus on our port­fo­lio, and Heineken has over 250 brands around the world, so we will dip into that pot.

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Are you plan­ning to ex­pand your brew­ing fa­cil­i­ties?

We are not go­ing to ex­pand this cur­rent fa­cil­ity, but [rather] are look­ing to build a new brew­ery in Le­banon. We started this process a few months ago, and it should come to fruition in the short to mid term. We are still look­ing for land.

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