By James Odomel
The crossover of several beverage companies into unfamiliar territory is testament to the competition in the sector and a desire for growth in a low-income market.
In the last year, Century Bottling Company, the bottlers of Coca-Cola products have unveiled Dasani water and the energy drink Burn, while rivals Crown Beverages, the makers of Pepsi products, have introduced Peak mineral water.
East African Breweries (EABL) has also unleashed upon the market the Alvaro soft drink, while speculation is rife that rival Nile Breweries is in advanced stages of buying mineral water pioneer Rwenzori Beverages.
Amos Nzeyi, the Crown Beverages chairman, said by producing mineral water, they were making it easier for the consumers to choose from the wide range of their products.
Maureen Kyomuhendo, the Century Bottling communications manager, explained that they were giving the consumers variety of choices.
â€œThe consumers have stakes of needs in different times. At a certain time, they can need juice, the other water and soda,â€ she said.
Sandor Walusimbi, the EABL corporate affairs manager, said of the development: â€œThis was also in line with the EABLâ€™s strategy of being a total beverage Company and thus the need to venture into soft drinks business.â€
He added that Alvaro was introduced because EABL believed that young adults wanted more out of life and were looking for more choice in soft drinks.
â€œThey want their brands of choice to reflect their modern views and attitudes and are increasingly health conscious.â€
â€œAlvaro has the natural benefits that you get from a malted barley drink combined with a distinctively different taste and look that reflects the modern Ugandan lifestyle and outlook.
â€œIt is ideal for all social and formal occasions and at any time of the day or night,â€ Walusimbi disclosed.
â€œThe drink comes in a 330ml bottle and is available in Kampala at pre-selected outlets with plans to go national,â€ Walusimbi added.
John Chihi, the Mediage PR managing director, said the market was becoming competitive for the carbonated soft drinks.
â€œThere is a lot of competition in the market of soft drinks.
â€œSo producers are aiming at having a wide range of products for their consumers.
â€œThere is also a tendency of some consumers preferring â€˜healthierâ€™ drinks like water hence making the demand go up,â€ Chihi added.
Nile Breweries entry into the mineral water business is still shrouded in secrecy but sources familiar with the deal are adamant itâ€™s going ahead despite denials by the Nile Breweries management. However, Ahmed Pwanjwni, the Rwenzori Beverages general manager, confirmed the development, saying SABMiller, the Nile Breweries parent company, had contacted them.
A crowded mineral water market could be reason enough for the Rwenzori water to throw in their hat and Nile Breweries purchase of the water bottler could reflect a determination by SABMiller, who control Nile Breweries, to continue stalking rivals East African Breweries in Uganda.
Three years ago, both companies launched two wildly successful beers brewed from local inputs sorghum in Nile Breweries, Eagle Lager and barley in EABLâ€™s Senator Lager to cater for upcountry consumers.
Beer firms fight for soft drinks market