Glossy Future for Nigerian Drinks Industry

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Vanessa Obioha writes on the forthcoming Balmoral International Drinks Festival in Nigeria

Recently, the Nigerian Drinks Industry seemed to be experiencing a boom with the avalanche of festivals and carnivals springing up here and there. There was the Eko Beer Carnival, Nigeria Beer Festival, Dare to Mix Festival, and the upcoming Balmoral International Drinks Festival. The latter is the first of its kind to hold in Nigeria. The berth of these festivals attest to the huge potentials in the drinks industry. Unlike in the past where such events are frowned upon, Nigerians are embracing carnivals and festivals revolving round the beverage industry with enthusiasm. Much of the ado is due to the recent report that the drinks industry was the only successful sector during the nail-biting recession that hit the economy recently. The reason for this is not far-fetched. The drinks industry cut across several sectors in the country, leading to an increase in profit for key operators. In addition, Nigeria has the largest beer market (a sub sector of the beverage industry), owing to the fact that Nigerians have a peculiar drinks culture. Irrespective of the economic situation, Nigerians consume drinks for celebration as well as to relieve stress.

To some, this wake-up call may be a bit late but to Ezekiel Adamu whose Balmoral Group company is organising the first ever International Drinks Festival in Nigeria, it is the right time.

He argued that Nigeria has the potential to play in the big league due to its vast resources. It is a known fact that there is stiff competition in the industry with both local and foreign brands fighting for dominance in the market place. The brewery industry for instance is largely to an extent dominated by two major players. However, Adamu believes that it will continue to grow in the foreseeable future.

To achieve a global status for the industry however requires more than just words. First of all, accurate statistics must be available.

Adamu bemoaned the arduous task of compiling data that accurately detail the value of the drinks industry.
“When we started conceptualising this idea, we bought most of the data for the Nigerian drinks industry but we found out that the data was not accurate enough. So when we finally came up with International Drinks Festival, Euro Monitor which actually reached out to us to get involved with the festival summit for their data collection.”
The International Drinks Festival according to Adamu will be a game changer in the industry. The three day event that will kick off on December 1, 2017, will feature an exhibition of both international and local brands, masterclasses with professionals in the industry and summit with key experts and stakeholders in the industry. So far, over 200 exhibitors are expected to display their brands at Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Adamu gave exhibitors a taste of the festival when he introduced it few months ago. At that event, he transformed the Balmoral event hall at Federal Palace Hotel to a mini festival ground with stakeholders, professionals and celebrities clinking glasses. For the main event, there will be a cocktail lounge where visitors can explore their taste buds with their own signature cocktail; a wine tasting session, water bars, drinks market, networking sessions, bar wars, live performances by artistes, the beer village and other interesting highlights.

As daunting as the task may appear, Adamu is embracing the challenge with both arms. It is not the first time he is organising an event on a large scale. He is the brain behind the beach soccer competition COPA Lagos and through his Balmoral Group company, a 360 degree events solution company founded 13 years ago, he is providing services to a number of industries, encompassing event management and promotions; exhibitions and marketing communications.
He deliberately chose to have the festival on an international scale.

“Apart from the few breweries in Nigeria, most of the brands coming in are international. Not only are we targeting brands that are already here, there are lot of brands who want to come into the country. We are providing a platform for them. We have lots of drinks leaders that have their signature cocktails, but how many people can they showcase it to. That’s why we are giving them the opportunity to do so at the International Drinks Festival to show their consumers the different ways they can consume their products.”
He emphasised on the significance of the beverage industry.

“Everyone loves drinks. The alcoholic brand is an example. People in Nigeria when they are in recession, they are drinking more just to take their minds away from problems. During the boom time, they also want to celebrate through drinking. It is actually an industry that will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. In fact, there is a report that we will be spending more money buying water by 2020. “

Notwithstanding, the general impact of the festival on the beverage landscape is paramount in Adamu’s mind.
“It’s about having more drinks in the festival to display as well as reach prospective customers. Brands showing different aspect of their drinks and how they can be consumed. To also help bartenders to carry out their services professionally and learn skills as well in the masterclasses. We hear a lot of stories about how bringing drinks into the country take a lot of time, that’s the business side of the festival, which will be discussed at the summit. We will bring officials from National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on how to make drinks and go through the process of getting your label and even recommend agents that can help you with the clearing of your products. We have on board already a lot of logistics companies that actually wants to deal with these Drinks companies to make it easier for them while bringing their goods into the country in terms of clearing and all of that. We will also talk about how to encourage these international brands to come to Nigeria and establish. Take for instance, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) which bought over SABMiller and is already investing over $400 million in building brewery in Sagamu. That is the way we think things should be going. Having a huge industry that will not only be distributing but setting up breweries that will inadvertently create more jobs. Even the wine companies can build their wineries here. We have temperate regions in Taraba and Jos.”

Perhaps, the major impact the festival will have on the industry is positioning our local brands to compete favourably with international brands.

“For now, our local brands do not have the capacity to compete with international brands but if the manufacturers come to the festival, they will benefit valuable knowledge on the best production, packaging and marketing techniques on how to compete confidently in the international market.”