‘We appeal to all consumers of our beverages to enjoy them responsibly and that our alcoholic products are not used by children under the age of 18 years,’ says Maluti Mountain Brewery Managing Director, Mr Thomas Mopati Mpedi.
Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) has partnered Population Services International (PSI) Lesotho in the fight against HIV and AIDS through a pilot condom distribution programme.
The partnership, launched on 19 December, also includes the Lesotho Liquor Outlets and Restaurants Owners (LLROA), and seeks to distribute and encourage the use of condoms among the youths.
Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, speaks with MMB Managing Director, Thomas Mopati Mpedi, about this initiative and the company’s prospects.
LT: Could you please give us a brief background about MMB.
Mpedi: The Lesotho Brewing Company, whose name was later changed to Maluti Mountain Brewery, was registered on 9 April 1980. Lesotho’s local alcohol industry comprises one manufacturer, which is Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB), an affiliate company of the SABMiller Group—the world’s second largest beer brewer by volume. Maluti Mountain Brewery brews beer brands owned by SABMiller under license, and is a franchised bottler of the Coca-Cola Company. Maluti Mountain Brewery has distributor agreements with various alcohol companies to distribute wines, spirits and alcoholic fruit beverages, through its subsidiary Lesotho Liquor Distributors, to retail trade outlets in Lesotho. The government of Lesotho is the bigger shareholder through the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Ministry of Finance – Privatisation Unit with 51 percent and 5.25 percent respectively; SABMiller 39 percent and Lesotho Unit Trust takes the remaining 4.75 percent. SABMiller also has Management Rights which, in simple language, means they manage the business.
LT: We have come to the end of 2014…could you please highlight some of MMB’s key achievements for the year.
Mpedi: Maluti Mountain Brewery is a significant contributor, through various taxes, to the revenue of the Government of Lesotho. It is one of the largest taxpayers in Lesotho. We employ 330 people on a fulltime basis and another 50 on a part-time basis. We are working hard to develop our customers. To date, we have established and developed seven distributors of our products who are entrepreneurs of note in Lesotho. We have different suppliers whom we support through our business and these include cleaners, caterers, and suppliers of raw material for our beverages, such as sugar. We also support general and specialist supplies such as stationery, marketing agencies, fuel, water and electricity.
On Corporate social investment and social responsibility, we launched a youth entrepreneurship empowerment project named Kick Start towards the end of 2013, to the tune of M500, 000.00 and six candidates were awarded funds to start and or enhance their small businesses. The businesses we have supported are in farming, fashion design, communications, and medical emergency transport. We support high school soccer through our COPA Coca-Cola Sponsorship. In 2014, we sponsored COPA Coca-Cola with M260, 000.00. We provide water and energy drinks for the national team, Likuena, during their training camps and matches.
In December 2014, we struck a partnership with Population Services International (PSI) to distribute condoms to communities through our retailers under the Lesotho Liquor and Restaurants Owners Association (LLROA). It is a pilot that targets four districts in 2015; Maseru, Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek. The partnership was launched on the 19th of December 2014 and we were honoured by the presence of two Honourable Ministers of Health and of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing. We plan to rollout condom distribution to other districts in 2016 to ensure that each and every sexually active Mosotho can access free condoms regardless of where they reside. This is our contribution to the reduction of HIV and Aids. Thanks to PSI and LLROA for partnering with us on this one.
Brewing and Packaging Plant Improvement- Since 2013, we have undertaken to improve our plant and capacity for better quality and efficiency. In 2013, we invested M105 million; 2014 M85million and we plan to invest over M175 million over the next two years. Environment Management – We invested in M20 million for the construction of an Effluent Treatment Plant. The effluent we send to the sewer-line is as good as household effluent. Waste Management – we sell most of our beverages in returnable packs. We intend to create income-generating opportunities through post-consumption waste management such as collect a can. Our flagship Maluti Premium Lager is a unique brand that Basotho take pride in and it satisfies tourists while visiting Lesotho. The Brand has won the following awards: 2012 Mercatus – prowess in marketing (SABMiller Global Award, 2013 (Gold Award) at the Inaugural African Beer Awards for beer under 5% in Taste and Quality, 2014 Monde Awards – Taste and Quality (Silver Award). Other awards won by MMB include 2014 Certified Quality Management System, 2014 Certified Food Safety Management System, 2014 Most improved supply chain (SABMiller Africa Award) and in five years (since 2010) in a row, in Africa we have won the Best IT (information technology) Department Award.
LT: Now tell us about the major challenges you have come across over recent times.
Mpedi: Our main challenge in the past year was in the second quarter where our volumes were subdued largely due to the fact that we were upgrading our plant. We have been successful in that the upgrade of the plant has paid off during the past festive season. This year, we had adequate stock for the festive season and consumers of our beverages were much happier.
LT: What are your prospects for 2015?
Mpedi: In the New Year, we will be launching a new and exciting retailer development programme for our customers. We will be starting a business up-skilling training programme, which is intended to give our retailers skills to run efficient and profitable businesses. This will be an all-expenses paid training by MMB and is meant to ensure that our retailers run sustainable businesses, which can meaningfully increase their incomes and quality of life and that of the communities in which they live. Our Kick Start Project is also continuing in the coming year. We plan to launch the second round early in 2015 still targeting to support the youth with grants to start and /or improve their businesses. On the other hand, we will be continuing to mentor the current awardees of Kick Start Round One to ensure that their businesses are successful.
LT: Tell us about the country’s proposed alcohol policy and how it is going to affect the industry.
Mpedi: We have sought partnership with the Ministry of Health and wish to participate in the finalisation of the drafting of the National Alcohol Policy. As MMB, we promote responsible alcohol use. We advocate for legal measures and enforcement to curb underage drinking and alcohol abuse. We are aware that in Lesotho, 66 percent of alcohol is illicit and Lesotho’s major towns are a stone’s throw away from RSA (Republic of South Africa). When alcohol is highly restricted in the country, people resort to illicit alcohol or alternatively, will cross the border. This can impact the entertainment industry as a whole, as well as government revenue. We believe that targeted measures, vis-à-vis population-based measures, would go a long way in addressing alcohol abuse and that we are integral, as an industry, to ensuring our products are used responsibly.
LT: What exactly is the MMB doing to address underage drinking?
Mpedi: The SABMiller group, of which MMB is an affiliate company, launched a website called www.TalkingAlcohol.com , which provides health and general consumer information on alcohol and responsible consumption. MMB is exploring ways of localising the content of this very important website, especially for young people. MMB has, in the past, conducted a radio talk-show programme on Ultimate Radio, called Talking Alcohol, where young people engaged with health experts, psychologists and other professionals through a phone-in platform to discuss the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and how societal factors often come into play in terms of how people relate to and use alcohol. The programme is intended to be revived and extended to other platforms such as television and social media. MMB adheres to a global SABMiller framework for self-regulation. This entails that all operating businesses of the group will have in place, an active Sales and Marketing Compliance Committee chaired by independent third parties, to ensure that the global Policy on Commercial Communication that governs advertisements, consumer promotions, billboards and printed material, is enforced and adhered to at all times. Our Committee is chaired by the Deputy Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism. We are a complying company. MMB explores partnerships with the relevant ministries and other related institutions to raise awareness on Alcohol Responsibility through training of retailers on responsible trading, Radio Programmes and Television Programmes, as well as the print media to campaign for alcohol responsibility.
LT: What specifically are the MMB’s products?
Mpedi: We manufacture the following brands in-house: Maluti Premium Lager – “Our Beer Our Pride” which was voted the best African Beer in 2013; Castle Lager, Castle Milk Stout, Hansa Pilsener, and soft drinks including Coke, Coke Lite, Tab, Fanta Orange, Grape, Pine, Stoney, Cream Soda. Other beverage brands such as Redds, Sarita, Flying Fish, Castle Lite, Miller Genuine Drought and Peroni are imported from South Africa. We also import Appletizer and Minute Maid.
LT: We understand also that you reintroduced the “traditional” Chibuku, which is almost like a homemade traditional beer. Tell us about it.
Mpedi: It was introduced on the 17th of October, 2012. Basotho love the product. It tastes like the homemade Sesotho beer. We still have more work to do to market it to all Basotho throughout the country. It is the one product that has a potential to grow. The beauty with Chibuku is that raw materials such and maize and sorghum can be sourced from local farmers.
LT: Why is Maluti, as the premium beer, not sold outside the country?
Mpedi: Maluti Premium Lager is a big brand in Lesotho and currently contributes 17% of our volumes. It is still small outside Lesotho and the demand is not big enough to warrant imports by our sister companies in other markets. The importing countries determine the demand and trigger the import decision of any brand in the SABMiller stable, as well as support the brand through ensuring availability and marketing. This principle applies in our market as well. None of our sister companies can export a brand into our market without MMB establishing the demand and ensuring availability and marketing support.
LT: How do foreign brands affect your business?
Mpedi: We have a license to import other beer brands into Lesotho and so far, it has been good. We are able to meet the demands of our customers with their varied preferences.
LT: What could be your end-of-year message?
Mpedi: We wish Basotho a prosperous 2015. We appeal to all consumers of our beverages to enjoy them responsibly and that our alcoholic products are not used by children under the age of 18 years. We promise an improved service to our customers in the New Year. Our employees are the greatest asset we have within MMB and I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work and wish them all the best in 2015.