New craft brewer takes Nige­rian beer mar­ket by storm

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Paul Carsten

FROM PALE ale with tangs of pas­sion fruit and mango to a heady stout with 10 per­cent al­co­hol, a pi­o­neer­ing craft brewer in Nige­ria is seek­ing to ex­pand and grab more of a mar­ket dom­i­nated by Heineken and Di­a­geo.

Ba­ture Brew­ery has faced a slog to launch the first com­mer­cial prod­ucts from its mi­cro­brew­ery tucked be­hind a burger joint in the cap­i­tal, seek­ing to gain a foothold in Africa’s sec­ond big­gest beer mar­ket.

It has had to nav­i­gate Nige­ria’s Byzan­tine bu­reau­cracy to se­cure a li­cence, in­stall ca­bles and a gen­er­a­tor to deal with fre­quent black­outs and raise fi­nanc­ing to im­port equip­ment and in­gre­di­ents while the naira cur­rency plunged.

But the three ex­pa­tri­ate founders of Ba­ture, who want to turn a pas­sion for home brew­ing into com­mer­cial suc­cess, have been spurred on by an en­thu­si­as­tic re­cep­tion for their beers and en­cour­aged by growth prospects in a nation of some 190 mil­lion.

Nige­ri­ans drink 16 mil­lion hec­tolitres of beer a year, which is half as much as South Africans – the con­ti­nent’s big­gest beer mar­ket – even though Nige­ria has a pop­u­la­tion that is more than three times the size.

Go for it

“Hav­ing Nige­ri­ans taste our beer and say, ‘Wow, this is re­ally great,’ we de­cided to go for it and try and build this first (craft) brew­ery here in Nige­ria,” co­founder Kevin Con­roy said.

Con­roy, a Scot, came to Nige­ria like his two co-found­ing col­leagues to work in in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment. Tired of mass-pro­duced beers , the three brewed their own and soon found others liked it too.

Con­roy still works in de­vel­op­ment along­side help­ing build the brewer. His two col­leagues – James Tur­ley and An­drew Se­ward – have both quit their de­vel­op­ment jobs.

Ba­ture – pro­nounced ba­tor-ray and mean­ing “white per­son” or “Euro­pean” in the Hausa lan­guage mainly spo­ken in north­ern Nige­ria – started pro­duc­tion from its Abuja brew­ery in June. It now aims to raise £15 000 (about R252 500) via the Indiegogo crowd fund­ing site for a new equip­ment and a tap room where the pub­lic can try Ba­ture brews on site.

The mi­cro brew­ery’s am­bi­tions re­main mod­est in the giant mar­ket. Ba­ture plans to pro­duce 40 000 to 50 000 litres in the next 12 months.

But its pre­mium price re­flects con­fi­dence in a class of more af­flu­ent drinkers in Nige­ria, even when the oil-pro­duc­ing nation’s econ­omy has been ham­mered by weak crude prices.

“There is de­mand here – some ma­jor ho­tel chains have asked to stock us,” said Con­roy. – Reuters

PHOTO: REUTERS

Kelvin Con­roy, co-founder of the Ba­ture brew­ery, stands be­hind a bottle of Ba­ture beer on the front desk at the Ba­ture brew­ery in Abuja, Nige­ria. Nige­ri­ans drink 16 mil­lion hec­tolitres of beer a year. Ba­ture is a well-re­ceived ad­di­tion.

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