Quietly and without any fanfare, Heineken debuted its signature draft beer in Ethiopia last week.
Maker of one of the most visible brands in the nation, including Walia, Bedele and Harar, this is to be a high premier draft that will complement its everyday brand of beer, Walia. In addition, the company has the bestselling non-alcoholic Sofi and Buckler drinks under its fold.
The company, one of the two top producers of beer, inaugurated its brewery in 2015 in Kilinto in the presence of the then Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. It had the capacity of producing 1.5 m hectometers with ample space for expansion.
The company first entered the Ethiopian market in 2011 after buying Bedele and Harar brands and their facilities, for the sum of EUR 310 million, a still record sum for such acquisition in Ethiopia.
However, most of the local beer markets have suffered and Heineken was not an exception. This came about when the Ethiopian government decided to end beer advertisements on television and suddenly decided to spike the excise tax to beer sold locally, to about an additional 8 Birr, pushing it from per bottle sum of 3 birr to 11 birr.
As the result, like the other breweries, it was forced to lay-off a portion of its employees and saw its brands, more specifically the Walia brand lose its share of customers. It has also further put a break on its long planned expansion, including the construction of a brewery site within Ethiopia.
On a positive note, the company has partnered with local farmers to help in the production of quality barley for its products, in lieu of barely imported from outside in the midst of a Forex crunch. Most farmers who have partnered with the company have been exposed to new technologies and been provided better seeds and more importantly, attractive income to earn a good living.
So far, the draft is available on selected fine restaurants and hotels, including Ras Hotel.
According to sources, it will launch it openly on Thursday inside the Marriott Executive Apartment pool side bar.