The quarter ending June 2020 will be one to forget for Nigeria’s struggling brewery sector. Whilst the negative effect of COVID-19 is still being reported across every sphere of the economy, the brewery sector was always one of those that were expected to suffer the most.
The latest results from two of the industry giants, Nigeria Breweries and International Breweries confirm our worst fears. Combined revenues for both companies was N93.9 billion, representing a 22% drop year on year. Both companies reported revenues of N120, 4billion in the corresponding quarter of 2019.
Disaggregated, Nigeria Breweries reported a 21% drop to N68.6 billion and International Breweries 24% drop in revenues to N25.2 billion. Guinness is yet to release its quarter ending June 2020 results which happens to be its year-end. Ahead of its release, the company issued a profit warning as it anticipated the worst. The drop in revenues recorded in the Brewery sector is not a surprise. With most parts of the country in complete economic lockdown, beer sales are expected to drop significantly.
As expected, the fall in revenues crashed margins significantly. While Nigeria Breweries was able to eke out a tiny N70 million in pre-tax profits, International Breweries lost N4.2 billion. Nigeria’s Breweries actually fared worse when you consider that they reported a N7.9 billion in 2019 and N12.3 billion in 2018. Could it get any worse?
Beer companies have always posted some of their best revenues in the second quarter of the year and struggle in the third. With results this bad already in the second, things could only get worse in the third quarter. Though, economic activities are gradually picking up, entertainment life which it heavily relies on remains in comatose.
The industry has been struggling with dwindling sales and thin margins for years as younger Nigerians ditch beer for spirits, which are often cheaper, do not bloat the stomach and are quicker to intoxicate. Increase in beer sales are also seemingly positively correlated with an uptick in social events such as weddings, parties and birthday ceremonies. Hotels, bars, clubs and most entertainment centres remain shut since March. Some are expected to reopen in the coming weeks as the government eases lockdown. But till then, beer making companies are clutching on straws.
COVID-19 could be blamed for the industry’s woes, but a changing demographic still poses an existential threat to the sector. In fact, COVID-19 only showed how urgently they need to pivot away from relying on outdoor events to drive sales. Beer drinking is purely consumer product and needs to be pitched as such.
Rather, than advertise beer as a drink for bars during live events, it should be sold as a “must-have” beverage in the evening during family time. It should also be pitched as a must-have staple for house parties and close family gatherings or even casual remote working settings. The packaging should also gear off for a makeover. Beer dispensers anyone?