When long-established African beer maker SABMiller went global, it soon found that its fastest-growing markets were on its own doorstep it told The Economist reporters.
The world’s second-largest beer company, SABMiller was founded in South Africa in 1895 as South African Breweries. Nigeria is now its second-largest beer market after South Africa. In its quest for global expansion, SAB moved its main stock market listing to London in 1999 and bought Miller, a big American brewer, a few years later in a deal that gave the renamed SABMiller global reach, SABMiller now operates in 75 countries, but in recent years its fastest-growing and most promising markets are in Africa.
Nigeria is one of SAB’s fastest-growing markets. The company was initially wary of entering a market with two formidable incumbents — Guinness, owned by Diageo, and Nigerian Breweries, owned by Heineken, a Dutch company keen to reach all of Africa. It has three breweries in Nigeria each treated as a separate entity. Each has its own brands. “We are a regional player,” said Simon Harvey, head of SAB’s Nigerian businesses.
Nigerians like larger-than-life names for their beer, The Economist reports. The country’s leading brand is Star. SAB named its beer Hero. Its label features the rising sun, an icon of the local Igbo people. SAB uses symbolism in other African markets to give its beers a local identity, The Economist reports. “People badge themselves with beer,” said Alan Clark, the company’s boss. “It has an emotional content.”