By Charleen Ndlovu
Bulawayo Municipal Commercial Undertaking’s beverages manufacturing unit, Ingwebu Breweries plans to re-introduce its five-litre packaged sorghum beer as it moves to grab a substantial niche market locally.
Sales, marketing and corporate affairs executive, Mr Ndabezinhle Mlilo, said the company would this week re-introduce its Thwala 5 product in an effort to meet the anticipated high demand for beer during the festive season.
The company would also use the re-introduction of Thwala 5 as a blind test of the product, which it stopped producing about two decades ago.
“The reason we decided to bring back the old five litre calabash is solely due to the fact that we are concerned with the shortage of traditional beer on the market.
“We are aware that demand is usually high during the festive season and as a company, which values its customers, we don’t want to disappoint them. However, it should be noted that this product is only being re-introduced for the holidays,” said Mr Mlilo.
Over the years, the company has been marketing its beer through its two-litre and one-litre “Calabash and Shake It” brands respectively.
The firm was forced to stop production of “Shake It” in July owing to lack of foreign currency to import the packaging material.
“We have been failing to import packaging material for our Shake It brand since end of July due to lack of forex to procure it in Zambia.
“The company has also not been spared by fuel shortages. These shortages have consistently disrupted our delivery schedules and that has hit us hard on our profitability and reputation with our customers,” said Mr Mlilo.
Ingwebu Breweries, which has been into the brewery business for over a century, has for decades now been operating under difficult conditions and stiff competition, in an industry dominated by Delta Corporation’s Chibuku brands.
The company’s underperformance, which has seen it losing its market share to rival breweries, has largely been attributed to use of antiquated machinery.
Mr Mlilo also said plans were also underway to bring back its non-alcoholic sorghum beverage.
“As a company we are really looking forward to the year ahead especially when it comes to improving and enhancing our products. We are also planning a move to bring back Maheu next year probably in the first half of the year in order to fortify our presence across the country,” he said.
The company suspended mahewu production after raising a paltry $6 143 in the fourth quarter to December, which was 91 percent down compared to the budget.
It started producing mahewu in February 2015 after investing more than $500 000 as a way of raising fresh income after its main source – the sorghum beer – took a battering from poor marketing, distribution and competition from other brands.
The company’s beer product – Ingwebu – is mainly marketed in Bulawayo, the two Matabeleland provinces and Midlands provinces. The Chronicle