Steps to introducing a new beverage into Nigerian market

Nigeria has become a sought-after market owing to emerging variables such as high population, rapid growth of the middle-class and high percentage of young population, among others, all of which have translated into a strong consumer base.

For sure, a population of 168.8 million, growing at 2.8 percent, with 53.2 percent between the ages of 15 and 64, supports the currently robustly growing Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market.

Though this represents a significant opportunity for bottlers to introduce new beverages, it also presents some logistical challenges that inherently come with bringing a new product to market.

“From concept to consumption, there are many steps required to effectively bring a beverage to the store shelves; from research and development (R&D) and facility design, to quality assurance and control, and marketing to the consumer,’’ said Moshy Cohen, vice president, marketing, Royal Crown Cola International (RCCI), in an e-mail to BusinessDay.

“If overlooked or not handled effectively, any one of these complex factors can slow or even halt product entry into a particular marketplace,’’ he further stated.

The first step involves meeting the demand for the new product. In a highly competitive emerging market, new product R&D is often complex and must involve highly skilled specialists, who research to create exciting, fresh formulas for new products.

This is because R&D could involve the reformulation of an existing product, tailored to the specific consumer tastes of a new market. For example, driven by consumer demand for all-natural ingredients, a beverage might be reformulated using cane sugar versus an artificial sweetener. This must be accomplished without affecting the consistency that consumers have come to expect from an existing brand, said Cohen.

The next step involves acquiring facilities for the success of the project. Whether building a new beverage bottling facility from scratch, or modernising an existing plant, there are several key areas of focus, including site selection, equipment procurement, and the retention and training of plant personnel.

When choosing an initial site for a bottling operation, the first thing to determine is whether or not the current onsite facility is up to code. Does it meet international, national, and local building codes for food and beverage manufacturing operations? In addition, it is important to consider aesthetics. The external appearance of a plant represents the brand and can inadvertently convey a negative message about the cleanliness and professionalism of a bottling operations.

“Once a proper site has been selected, the right equipment and personnel must be acquired and put into action. Complex equipment – including filling, capping and labeling machinery – is necessary to meet demand efficiently and cost-effectively,’’ Cohen said.

“Plant personnel must then be trained to properly operate the bottling equipment. In addition to the trained staff necessary to run day-to-day manufacturing line operations, a modern bottling plant needs specialised staff, including engineers, chemists and flavour technicians,’’ he stated.

There is also a challenge of identifying and maintaining a quality water supply.

Continuous water supply monitoring is needed to ensure that the water chemistry remains consistent. Water samples should be analysed on a quarterly basis, and complete water analysis should be cross-checked with national standards for target markets on an annual basis.

Cohen understands that bottlers face accessibility to clean water supply challenge in Nigeria and many emerging markets, but acknowledges that food safety programmes such as the one held by the Nigerian Institution of Food Science and Technology last October were already raising awareness, while also calling upon the government to adopt more stringent food safety laws.

Quality assurance and control come next. High quality raw ingredients must meet rigid quality control standards and certifications. These ingredients, as well as the final product, must be routinely tested.

After overcoming the many logistical hurdles, adopting world-class marketing strategies comes to the fore. No less complex or important, proper marketing can include various areas of support including advertising, sales promotions, and sales staff training, according to Cohen. He unequivocally added that his firm, a global brand, could provide these technical services to Nigerian and African investors who wish to go into the business.

By:  ODINAKA ANUDU