Lager war looms as Nigerian Breweries moves to defend market leadership

April 14, 2018, was perhaps the beginning of another era for the Nigerian beer market. On that day Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), the world’s largest brewery company launched Budweiser, into the Nigerian market.

During the launch, ABInBev left no one in doubt about what they were out to accomplish in Nigeria. Their objective was evidently to position the brand as king of the beer jungle in Nigeria; so they created a campaign that carefully drew the attention of consumers to Budweiser as #kingofbeer. At every touch point during the elaborate lunch ceremony, there was a clear reference to Budweiser as king. For example the launch party was titled ‘Party with the King’ and unveiling procedure was ‘unveiling the King’.

Budweiser is one of the top beer brands in the world, and it is competing in Nigeria’s premium segment of the beer market with the likes of Heineken and Guinness. While Heineken and Guinness are iconic brands with established footprints in the Nigerian market, Budweiser objective is to pull the rug from under their feet by gaining consumers’ trust with elaborate campaigns and below the line strategies.

Speaking at the event Marketing Director, AB InBev, Mr. Arne Bruse made it clear that Budweiser was a strategy to win over the local beer market.“We have great plans for our consumers in Nigeria. We want to grow, we are busy building our brewery, we are busy expanding our capacity and we are investing in infrastructures, we are hiring people. Nigeria is the biggest market for us on the continent, so it is definitely a focus area for the company,”

If AbInBev wants competition, Nigerian Breweries seem up to it. The company is leaving nothing to chance, but doing all it can, not just to sustain its market leadership in Nigeria, but  also to expand it. And just two weeks after the launch of Budweiser and its sensational christening as king of beer, NB pulled off an equally remarkable response by launching a new international premium beer brand, Tiger Lager. The unveiling which took place in Lagos was star-studded and full of glitz and glamour. There was a lot to eat and drink and entertainment was provided by Nigerian music star Wande Coal.

A host of other celebrities also brought their star power to beer at the launch. Some of these celebrities include Nollywood star, Deyemi Okanlawon, former Big Brother Naija housemate T-Boss, Skinny Girl in Transit actress Abimbola Craig, media girls Maria Okanrede and Mimi Onalaja, among others.

The unveiling, which took place on Friday, 27th April 2018, saw celebrities and their die-hard fans challenged to a series of obstacle courses by attempting to conquer their fears and climb the “Tiger Wall”, a 70 ft wall at the Muri Okunola Park in Victoria, Island, Lagos.

The attendees at the launch also experienced ‘The Tiger Den’ – a jungle-like experience simulating an encounter with a ferocious tiger complemented with thrilling music, sound effects and scenery. There the invitees tested their courage and enjoyed a ‘real’ Tiger experience. This was in a way, a mental simulation of what Tiger Lager beer represented.

“The Tiger Wall and Den are symbolic of the many fears, mental and physical boundaries we have to surmount daily in our pursuits. It’s not simply about heights. Tiger Beer is a beer for the bold, the courageous and the daring, encouraging them to ‘uncage’ bravery in pursuit of passion. Tiger Beer is a rallying point for those who are unknown, those with the potential to change the world; an unseen generation with a tiger inside. They are the ones we say are uncaged“, said Franco Maria Maggi, Marketing Director, Nigerian Breweries.

Speaking on his part about the launch and the activities surrounding it, Tokunbo Adodo, Portfolio Manager, International Premium, Nigerian Breweries Plc, said “Tiger Beer identifies with the bold Nigerian, whose passion brings him a sense of purpose. It is for the man of courage, and will be anchored around creativity, and inspiring real stories of people living their potential, and making their mark,”

Tiger Lager beer which is already a popular brand in Asia and other major markets is expected not only to strengthen NB’s strong hold on premium segment but also put a break on AbInBev’s  ambitions, a source close to the Iganmu based company told MARKETING EDGE.

The brand which is an International Premium (“IP”) Asian beer will be paired up with Heineken’s own brand Lager beer as Nigerian Breweries assembles its best performing global premium beers to defend its turf in what appears to be a beer war against AB InBev’s International Breweries Plc.

Tiger lager, the newly launch brand, has an 86 year history, dating back to 1932 in Singapore. It is considered one of the world’s fastest growing premium beer brands, growing by 24% (2016) year-on-year, and is currently marketed in over 60 countries, including UK, US, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Australia, and now in Nigeria.

According to NB, Tiger Beer is made with only the finest ingredients through a precise brewing process and uses only the finest quality ingredients. The result is the intensely refreshing, full-bodied taste of one of the world’s leading contemporary beer brands that has won over 40 international awards and accolades including Gold at the prestigious world beer cup, gold medal at the Commonwealth Bottled Beer Competition, and the BIIA’s World’s Best Lager Beer award among others.

Speaking about the increasing competition in the beer market,  Jordi Borrut Bel, CEO of  Nigeria Breweries  said the company was well positioned to survive the challenge, adding adding that Nigeria has always been competitive market.

“If you look at our track record over the past years we have successfully engaged the competition and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to continue to do so in the future.”

Nigeria is the second largest beer market in Africa and consumes some 16 million hectolitres of beer a year, about half as much as in South Africa, the continent’s biggest beer market. The country’s per capita beer consumption is about 10 litres a year, compared to a global average of 35-40 litres, according to Morgan Stanley.

A rising middle class and youthful population is helping drive beer demand, according to Euromonitor, which estimates the market was worth about N837 billion or $2.7 billion as at the end of 2016.

SAB Miller made inroads into the Nigerian market in 2009 when it acquired Port Harcourt-based Pabod Breweries, makers of Grand lager beer, and Ilesa-based International Breweries, makers of Trophy lager. In 2012, SABMiller established a $100 million brewery in Onitsha, which makes the Hero lager brand.

AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, acquired SABMiller, South Africa’s largest brewer, in 2016.

More troubling for the other brewers (NB and Guinness Nigeria), is AB Inbev’s possible gravitation towards price cuts as it sees ensuing margin improvements across its operations post-merger of its Nigerian assets. Bruse made this known during the Budweiser launch when he said the company’s brands will be affordable and pocket-friendly. He noted that the company had strategically launched several beer brands to suit certain geography and culture within the country.


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