SA brewer props rivalry with Castle Lite

Castle Lite is being introduced in Kenya/MUTHONI NJUKI

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Competition in the beer industry continues to intensify after South African brewer SABMiller’s subsidiary Crown Beverages, announced the introduction of ‘Castle Lite’ into the Kenyan market.

Crown Beverages Marketing Manager Pinkie Nyandoro said on Thursday that the launch was part of the expansion of its product portfolio as they seek to cater for Kenya’s diverse clientele.

“Kenya offers a ready market for new products due to the diverse and increasingly globalised nature of the consumers who are ready for choice. Their different lifestyles demand a choice of premium, globally recognised products which we are able to give with Castle Lite,” the manager said.

Although it is the first time that ‘Castle Lite’ is being introduced in Kenya, the beer, first manufactured in South Africa in 1994, has been successful in markets such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania, and Uganda.

It will be distributed in non returnable 330ml bottle and will retail at a recommended price of Sh120 in supermarkets and Sh150 in bars.

The launch however comes two months after its rival, the East African Breweries Limited (EABL) – with the backing of its largest shareholder Diageo- introduced Tusker Lite, a similar brand into the market.

Packaged in similar bottles, the two launches open up another avenue for the competitive brewers who are also targeting a similar clientele- the premium end of the local beer market.

While EABL also re-introduced its Pilsner Ice in December 2011, SABMiller responded a week later with the launch of its genuine draft beer that targets ‘fun loving, socially driven active men and women’.

The draft beer joined its product portfolio that includes Redds and Castle Lager.

While the two giants have always been competitive, their rivalry was renewed upon the unwinding of a tumultuous relationship that saw EABL repossess a 20 percent stake held by SABMiller in Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL).

Similarly, EABL disposed off its share (20 percent) in Tanzania Breweries Limited which is majority owned by the South African brewer.

The conclusion of this relationship in January 2012, which saw EABL regain full control of KBL, also gave EABL the freedom to be aggressive in the manufacture and sale of brands that would give it a competitive edge.

Besides sparking a war in the products portfolio, the end of the ‘marriage of convenience’ has also opened up a battle front in the region particularly Tanzania.

Although it gave up its stake in TBL, EABL has a 51 percent in Serengeti Breweries Limited which is the second largest beverages, brewer and distributor in Tanzania, setting a stage for continued business rivalry.