In an effort to position itself for a wider regional footprint under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), beverages producer, Ingwebu Breweries, is considering packaging of its traditional opaque beer (amasese) for exportation.
The Bulawayo Municipal Commercial Undertaking (BMCU) company is diversifying in the wake of growing competition and the need to come up with new products to consolidate competitive market share and increase profitability.
Ingwebu is already producing a range of its mahewu products and has expressed intention to further diversify into production of bottled water.
Speaking during a Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) conference focused on unpacking AfCFTA opportunities in Bulawayo last Friday, Ingwebu Breweries sales and distribution manager, Mr Ray Nthabeleng, said their company was scaling up operations to tap into the wider market.
“Going up into the Sadc region and the rest of Africa is possible. Looking at what this offers to us, we are saying in the coming near future, why not bottle opaque beer?” he said.
“Go around Africa, no one is bottling opaque beer but we’ll have opaque beer produced at Ingwebu going up as far as Western Africa, let’s think about that.”
Mr Nthabeleng said the company’s mahewu product was doing well, with the recent introduction of a new flavour increasing the range to four.
“Our royal mahewu has come in four different flavours now. The new flavour is our pitch apricot. This is a new kid on the block and we would want to get your feedback,” he said.
Diversification is part of the company’s strategy to consolidate its position after it came out of a loss-making position that almost grounded operations in recent years.
Ingwebu has also hinted on plans to raise US$20 million from the market for retooling, which will help enhance production efficiencies.
Bulawayo City Council’s finance director, Mr Kimpton Ndimande, is also on record saying Ingwebu was slowly regaining lost ground.
“Under our commercialised entities, we have got Ingwebu Breweries that recently diversified into the production of amahewu and in that product we now have banana flavour in the market. We also have bottled water in the pipeline,” he said.
Mr Ndimande said the beverages producer has been faced with a highly competitive market hence the company has not declared a dividend.
Ingwebu came out of the woods to a sound financial footing following the successful implementation of a turnaround strategy.
Through the strategy, Ingwebu has introduced new product lines that include the 1,5 litre and 2-litre calabash of opaque beer and diversifying into mahewu production.
This has seen the company improve its capacity utilisation to 95 percent early this year from 65 percent. Over the years, the brewery faced viability concerns underpinned by falling demand for its traditional products and the high cost of operating antiquated equipment.
These negatively impacted on its ability to contribute revenue to the local authority and saw many workers losing their jobs.
Ingwebu was established in 1946 as a department of BCC and in 1996, council established a wholly-owned business entity called BMCU. The Chronicle