Alcoholic drink consumption among Nigerians is one of the common societal norms almost everyone now proudly associates with. This is because it is not forbidden, neither is it disapproved by law for those above 18 years.
The increasing rate of alcohol consumption in Nigeria has since created competition among makers of alcoholic drinks. The general public is now exposed to choices that suit their desires and budgets, which determine the type of drinks they take.
Unlike before when alcoholic drinks played complex roles in social activities, alcohols are now being taken based on many factors that can best be described by individuals. Before now, alcohol was used for rituals, marriage ceremonies, chieftaincy enthronements, among others.
As far as alcohol is concerned in the Nigerian context, beer, bitters and spirits have been at loggerheads in the market space, striving to make sales to gain more market value among alcohol consumers at large.
For those who reside in Ogba, Ikeja and its environs, Charity Bar is not an unknown destination of relaxation. It is where most of the residents find themselves taking alcoholic drinks with friends after a long day.
It is not just an established bar for the residents alone, others who stay in neighbouring areas also go there as they see it as a bar where you can purchase drinks at less expensive rates.
After frequent visits to Charity Bar, one would be left with no choice but to affirm a report released by a market research group, Global Data (formerly Canadean) in 2017. The report indicated that Africa was by far the fastest growing region for beer consumption, with Nigeria leading the top biggest beer drinking countries in Africa.
According to the report, beer consumption in Africa was estimated to grow by a five per cent (5%) annual growth rate (AGR) between 2015 and 2020. The figure is the highest growth rate across all continents in the world.
In the course of studying the market value of beer, a Nairametrics correspondent visited Charity Bar. There, he discovered the increasing rate at which people consume beer. During one of his numerous visits, he met a man fondly called Lash.
Lash, a dispatch-rider by profession and a communicator revealed that he drinks whiskey and beer. To him, both alcohol products are the same.
Our correspondent asked the bar manager the number of bottles Lash takes on average when he comes to the bar to drink, the bar manager who’s simply identified as Matrix said Lash takes as much as two crates of beer on a sitting.
“I take more of beer, but I love spirit drinks too”, he said.
Damilare, a polytechnic student in Osun State, enjoys drinking too. He takes varieties of alcoholic brands but consumes more of beer as well. Damilare said at least in a week, he takes alcohol four times and he takes beer almost all the time.
“On a sitting, I go as far as taking six bottles of beer. I love taking beer than any other drink, I can’t switch. I enjoy beer because it takes me to another world entirely, I mean the world I want to be.” – Damilare
Unlike Lash and Damilare who enjoy taking alcohol almost all the time, circumstances determine Segun’s willingness to take alcoholic drinks.
“Sometimes I don’t take alcohol for weeks, and sometimes I take it more than often. It depends on a lot of factors, like how busy I am at work and how financially buoyant I am.”
Segun, a Lagos State University alumnus, is not really selective when it comes to taking alcohol. He drinks beer, bitters, and spirits. Segun stressed that he takes more of beer.
Similar to Segun’s attitude of drinking alcohol, Fabian prefers beer and spirits, though takes more of beer. Fabian affirmed that he takes more of spirits drinks.
Christian, a music producer drinks alcohol on rare occasions. He rarely drinks but anytime he feels like drinking, he prefers to take more of spirits. This, according to him, is because beer makes him feel too relaxed and sleepy.
Adedoyin, unlike some of her male counterparts, is an occasional alcohol consumer. She takes alcoholic drinks depending on the social occasion. And according to her, anytime she wants to take alcohol, she prefers spirits. And on the rare occasions when she takes a beer, she takes a maximum of two bottles.
How Spirit drinks have evolved over time
Unlike beer, which is made from cereal grains, spirit drinks are produced from distilling ethanol. It would not be erroneous to affirm that spirit drinks are more consumed by the general public compared to the beer.
The factors that determined this fact include Spirit drinks’ availability, packaging, and prices.
- Availability: Unlike beer that one can only purchase in bars, nightclubs and pubs, it is easier to purchase spirits and bitters almost anywhere. Spirits and bitters can be purchased at motor packs/garages, they can be purchased on the roadsides and from hawkers. So, it is more available for the general public to consume than beer. To exemplify this fact, some people while heading to work or at work in the morning, lighten up their day with small sachet pack of spirits. This, they believe keep them active.
- Packaging: Unlike beers that are only packaged in bottles and cans, spirits and bitters come in all kinds of packaging. One can even find a sachet of spirit, which are much cheaper compared to beer packages. Aside from the sachet package, one can also find plastic container package of spirit and bitters, depending on one’s pocket. The plastic packages come in different sizes too. More so, spirit drinks are also packaged in bottles; one can get a small bottle of spirit drink, medium and big size of it.
- Prices: The prices of spirit and bitters vary and are by far cheaper compared to beers. On an average, a bottle of beer is sold for N250 – N300, while one can get a spirit drink for as cheap as N50; the bitters also come in plastic can of N100. Price sensitivity in the market space can’t be over emphasised when one is determining how well a product is doing in terms of sales. It influences sales than any other factor in some circumstances.
From an observation, one can tell that beer is nowhere close to spirits and bitters winning the hearts of alcohol consumers in the highly competitive market space.
In terms of availability, beer is only available in bars, clubs and pubs. One can hardly find a beer on the roadside, unlike spirit drinks. Beers can only be purchased in the mentioned social places.
Beers are not as cheap as spirit drinks. One can purchase a spirit drink for as cheap as N50. Low-income earners would any day go for spirit drinks because of their affordability.
Also with packaging, beer is only packaged in bottles and cans. One cannot find a beer packaged in a sachet or plastic. Beer makers for reasons unknown to the public only package their products in bottles and cans. Though, on rare occasions, there are different sizes, from medium to big. Aside from the Orijin brand which is fast dominating the beer market, one can hardly find another beer brand with a medium size.
Bitters are traditionally an alcoholic flavoured with roots, barks, fruits, and leaves, etc. that often come with a bitter, sour, or bitter-sweet taste. A large percentage of alcohol consumers rarely take bitters, compared to spirits and beer.
Bitters in Nigeria, though, have a similar market value to spirit drinks. The packaging, price, and availability are almost the same which somewhat poses an enormous threat to beer makers.
In most cases, alcohol consumers take bitters as it is widely believed that it low-sugar will help them stay sexually healthy. Most men who drink alcohol, take bitters as they think it is a way of watching their sugar level.
On the other hand, the women folks who consume alcohol take bitters when they are having their menstrual period as they believe it eases their pains. Some women take it also to stay sexually fit.
In view of the highlighted observations, one can tell that spirit drinks and bitters are more consumed than beer. Most beer manufacturers are yet to explore the spirit and bitter market, though Guinness Nigeria is already in the spirit and bitter market space.
Considering the increasing rate of poverty in Nigeria, an average man would take drinks in view of what he has at hand. Referring to the interviews conducted by our corresponded with selected persons, none of those interviewed prefers to take beer alone. Aside from Lash, who takes it more in terms of the number of bottles, others take beer due to weather, mood, and gathering.
In conciseness, almost all the interviewees consume beer with the substitute of spirit drinks.
Most of the low-income earners in the country, such as motorists and SME business owners, only take beer on special gatherings. They consume more of spirits because of their affordability.