By Hamid Ayodeji
The manufacturing sector and particularly the food and beverage sub-sector remain crucial to every economy of the world and the realities in Nigeria are not different. In recent years, the performance and contribution of these category players to the Nigerian economy has grown in value and relevance.
Data from the World Trade Organisation states that Nigeria ranks as the largest food market in Africa, with significant investment in the local industry and a high level of imports. The food and beverage sector is estimated to contribute 22.5 per cent of the manufacturing industry value, and 4.6 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Prior to the 1980s, production capacity of local farmers was somewhat sub-optimised, with little or no investment in local production or local sourcing of raw materials. Employment and other inherent economic potentials of the food industry were also untapped and sub-optimally leveraged.
The economic recession following the global fall in oil prices in the early 1980s has been credited to opening up the local manufacturing sector in Nigeria.
The subsequent economic “austerity” rise saw a recorded decline in inflow of foreign products, which in turn led to a sharp surge in the prices of imported goods. With obvious economic realities, indigenous businesses across multiple sectors sprang up to fill the gap with locally produced quality goods to meet consumer needs. Amongst the sectors that have recorded tremendous growth since then is the Food and Beverage sector, which has been enabled by growing local investment over the years.
Chi Limited and the Nigerian Footprint
In 1980, Chi Limited was set up with the vision of local production of goods and products to meet the needs of Nigerian consumers. According to the company, the aim was to provide locally relevant products for consumers. The vision hinged on leveraging local natural resources, where available, to provide high quality, nourishing beverages for the Nigerian population while benefitting communities by creating jobs for the local population.
To achieve this objective, Chi Limited pioneered heavy investments and drove innovation across the value chain of Juice, Dairy and Snacks products in Nigeria. Through this, the company quickly established itself as a lead campaigner for quality, healthy, and nourishing homegrown brands whilst driving local economic development and growth.
To emphasise its commitment to local content, the company has consistently managed its brands for sustained local appeal through its “Be Nigerian, Buy Nigerian” strategy, thus projecting it as a Nigerian brand of international quality.
Over the last 40 years, Chi Limited has steadily emerged a “giant of force and reckoning” in food and beverage manufacturing by revolutionising the industry. It is safe to say that many Nigerians have encountered or directly consumed one or more of the various brands from Chi Limited. As a matter of fact, it is very likely that every Nigerian family of the over 190 million population has continues to experience at least one of the company’s brands every day.
Such brands include Capri-Sun, the number one children’s fruit juice worldwide, which is also currently the largest selling fruit juice drink for children in Nigeria with clear market leadership. The company’s flagship brand, Chivita 100% Fruit Juice is also one of the market leaders locally and occupies visible presence in several African markets where the product is currently being exported to. In the snacks category, Chi Superbite, Beefie Beef Roll, Beefie Meatpie, and Chi Classic Cake are also competing favourably.
Beyond the market leadership of its brands, the company is also at the forefront of technology and packaging innovation in the industry. The use of the Tetra aseptic packaging has afforded the company the unique opportunity of providing all its juices, yoghurt, evaporated milk, and drinking milk products in a clean, hygienic and safe packaging format.
Its strong distribution network
Food and beverages are fast moving consumer goods. Therefore, availability at every point of purchase is critical to enable any brand achieve presence, appeal to consumers and gain leadership. A pervasive store presence is one area where the company has excelled in the last 40 years having successfully established a distribution network in virtually all locations that surpasses that of its competition.
A recent report by Euromonitor International said Chi Limited captured a larger market share through its strong distribution network and merchandising activities. The company has invested heavily in a distribution network that ensures its products are available to consumers all across Nigeria. This strategy has created huge employment opportunities for thousands of Nigerians who are currently employed in the Sales force and many thousands more along the value chain.
Indeed, writing Nigeria’s food and beverage industry growth story will be incomplete without reference to Chi Limited and its game-changing exploits of the industry over the last 40 years.