Fred Otieno on the extreme left during the launch of Tusker Cider
1. Who is Fred Otieno?
I am the Head of Innovations at East Africa Breweries Ltd (EABL). I lead the team that is responsible for launching new brands and nurturing the ones that we bring into the business. I basically bring new innovations that respond to new consumer profiles, choices and trends. I also make sure that the company has a healthy portfolio of brands for the future.
I have worked at EABL for about 11 years. I started out in the marketing department which has seen me work in different countries like Uganda and Indonesia. So far I have been in Innovations department for 3 years.
2. What innovations has EABL come up since you took over as the head?
We have come up with several products but the most remarkable one is Tusker Cider which was launched in October last year. Cider is basically a drink which is made from fermented apple or pear. These drinks have a certain style to the taste flavor which is influenced by the apple. We built the cider using a bottom up approach where we looked at what is it that Kenyan consumers want, what type of flavours do they like? We tested various liquids did research and finally came up with the cider.
We have also done the Pilsner 7 which is a new Pilsner. The idea behind it was to rejuvenate the beer brand in the Kenyan market and make it respond to the needs of the young consumer. This is due to the fact that in the past it was beer of choice to the young consumer but over time it has aged and it is no longer connected to this consumer segment. The Pilsner 7 has a different taste and a higher alcohol content. The alcohol content was raised for the simple reason that more consumers are spending less time whenever they are going to drink hence a drink that serves them time wise as well as money wise as one buys fewer drinks.
Within spirits we have done Kenya Cane Coconut which is doing very well and is one of the leading brands despite being only 2 years old. We have also done Chrome Vodka which is a lower mainstream spirit retailing for about Ksh. 180 RRP for a 250 ml. There is Orijin Herbal which is a slightly herbal flavoured spirit which is a mixture of unique herbs that gives it a very differentiated taste.
We also have the Ready to Drink (RTD) category which has Smirnoff Ice Red & Black, Guarana and we recently launched Smirnoff Ice Electric Ginseng which has a different colour and flavor.
3. Speaking of Kenya Cane, it used to be a big thing in the 90’s and early 2000’s what is EABL doing to make it mainstream again
Kenya Cane is one of the brands that we have in our stable that have very strong heritage. Due to that heritage people trust it and as such it has many faithful consumers. In the past we have not been pushing it as much but we feel the need to reconnect with the consumer hence the introduction of Kenya Cane Coconut and we are looking to do more flavors in the future.
Kenya Cane is actually the leading spirit in Kenya among both the foreign and Kenyan brands in terms of sales and market share.
4. What informed the launch of Tusker Cider and what was the target market?
Tusker Cider was targeted at young millennials that is those who are between 18 – 35 years. This because these consumers having grown with the internet are more aware of different choices, are conversant with the global trends and their personal lifestyles are also changing.
After conducting market research, we realized that these millennials were not as connected to the things that their fathers used to use and were trying to create their own trends. From the research, we got to know that their taste palates are different having grown up with sweeter foods and drinks which influenced the brands that they consume hence the launch of Tusker Cider which caters for this market. The uptake has been quite good in this segment.
5. What informed the decision to launch the cider under the Tusker brand?
We decided to put it under Tusker due to the brand’s heritage and the fact that it is the most loved beer brand in Kenya and East Africa as a whole. This gave it the credibility that was needed to carry a new innovation in the market. When we tested the market to check whether they would be receptive to the idea and there was an overwhelming sense of acceptance.
6. What is driving EABL to continue investing in the Ready to Drink (RTD) market?
The Ready to Drink is the fastest growing category in total beverage alcohol. It has grown by 140% in the past 4 years. This increasingly affluent segment is discerning and eager to try new products and that is why we need to keep up and innovate new products in the market.
7. What is the RTD market like and who is EABL targeting?
RTD’s targets the millennial consumers who are trendy, young, vibrant consumers, looking for something new and exciting for their drinks repertoire. The can is an easy carry home or for travel for consumers, who would like to enjoy the drink at outdoor events and at home.
In Kenya as it is in the rest of Africa, the average consumer is young, with a very trendy outlook to life. We also see their consumption behavior changing as they are willing to spend more on their preferred tastes compared to generations ahead of them.
8. What was the inspiration behind the introduction of the Smirnoff Ice Electric Ginseng to the Kenyan market?
It was inspired by a need to introduce a new flavor into the Smirnoff Ice range which appeals to the millennial consumers. It is also in line with the business strategy to grow the RTD category. Kenya is actually the first market to launch Smirnoff Ice Electric Ginseng.
9.What is the future like for RTD products in Kenya?
RTDs remain an area of growth in Kenya because it is a category that is highly dynamic and needs to keep changing to remain relevant.
Smirnoff is the number 1 brand globally in the RTD category and it continues to pioneer that way in shaping the category in Kenya as it is doing around the world.
Innovation in RTD category is expected to grow the category by about 20%.
Overall, we expect that the launch of Ginseng, together with other recently introduced brands such as Tusker Premium Cider Can, Chrome Vodka and Kenya Cane Coconut will be strong contributors to our profits in the next 5 years.
10. I am sure you have heard about Sudan the last male Northern White Rhino, would EABL be interested in joining the campaign?
That is a good thought in the sense that we need to give back to the community and as a business we have consistently been doing that. However, our biggest channel for giving back to the society has been water because we believe that water is intrinsic in every way because water is life. Our biggest focus has been on how do we ensure that communities get a sustainable source of water
11. Finally, what innovations can Kenyans expect from EABL?
Kenyans can definitely expect to see new and exciting products from us before the end of the year.