The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
REVAMPED Bulawayo Municipal Commercial Undertaking (BMCU)’s beverages manufacturing unit, Ingwebu Breweries is envisaging using its re-introduced non-alcoholic sorghum drink, Royal Mahewu as a springboard to grab a substantial niche market.
Ingwebu Breweries managing director Mr Dumisani Mhlanga said in an interview recently that Royal Mahewu bounced back into the market last week after being absent for about two years, as its manufacturing plant experienced a myriad of faults culminating in the company abruptly stopping its production. The company made delivery of its mahewu manufacturing plant in July from South Africa where it had undergone major re-construction.
“We are now selling the product on the market and our immediate focus is ensuring that what we produce is firstly absorbed by the local market and thereafter we are going to market it right across the country because it has a four months shelf life. We intend to put our footprint in every corner of the country and riding on that we are anticipating setting up a distribution point in Harare,” he said.
Since its inception in 1946 Ingwebu Breweries has been marketing its traditional beer in Matabeleland region and some parts of the Midlands. Mr Mhlanga said the company was optimistic its mahewu would withstand the existing highly competitive market for non-alcoholic beverages.
“It’s a market, which has big and seasoned players but we are very positive that we have a quality product and in terms of taste it’s up there. We also have a very good management team in terms of distribution and networking. In essence we have come up with a product which we want everybody to drink,” he said.
Delta Beverages, Dairibord Zimbabwe and Arenel are the country’s biggest firms that are into the production of mahewu with a number of small players and imports also finding their products on the local market. The re-introduction of mahewu is part of Ingwebu’s diversification strategy aimed at avoiding over-reliance on their sorghum beer. Mr Mhlanga said the company was also looking forward to introducing another new product on their beverages product line early next year.
“We have set sights on introducing another beverage product into the market by April next year,” he said.
Ingwebu Breweries has close to a decade, been reeling under massive losses but since the end of last year the firm has been on a remarkable turnaround.
Since December last year it has been realising profits with $1,1 million being recorded for the month of May. Prior to its latest turnaround, the local authority was contemplating privatising the unit owing to persistence losses.