Updated: Jul 6
As stated by the founder of 254 Brewing in Kenya, “We definitely changed our approach a little bit in the sense that in the beginning, we thought that we knew what the market wanted because we knew what we wanted, which was super hoppy easy IPAs”.
The craft beer market is an exciting opportunity for local manufactures in Africa
The craft beer market in Africa is taking off, with countries like Kenya and South Africa at the forefront of this exciting trend. Craft beer is described as beer made by small, independent brewers, who usually use traditional methods of brewing the beer. Using unique flavours and moving away from the norm of Lager beers popular in many African countries; these craft beer brewers are targeting specific consumers in their respective countries.
Globally, craft beer has gained momentum, with growth projections of 14% a year through to 2023 (CNN 2019)1. In 2020, the global craft beer market was estimated at USD 95.23 billion, so with the projections this number is surely growing. What does this mean for Africa? Well, with the growing number of brewers and the growing popularity of beer, Africa will contribute to this growth opportunity.
COVID-19: An opportunity for craft beer brewers
A significant factor contributing to the popularity of craft beers was the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, consumer preferences shifted towards lower alcoholic content (sometimes non-alcoholic) beverages, which are characteristic of craft beers. Furthermore, consumers are increasingly more focused on quality, which is highly attainable for craft brewers since these beers are not mass-produced and often more flavourful. Additionally, these beers are produced and distributed locally, using local ingredients and flavouring, familiar to the population of the respective country.
The COVID-19 pandemic however, did bring about its own challenges for craft beer brewers; with the lockdowns and curfews imposed in many countries, craft brewers could no longer rely on distribution within restaurants or within small branches. Brewers had to explore into the retail distribution, with many distributing their bottled beers on the shelves of popular supermarket chains such as Carrefour. As a result, access to these beers was expanded with many consumers trying these beers for the first time. For many brewers, the increase in interest led them to open independent restaurants or bars to feature their products and create an inviting space for consumers.
Will Africans leave behind their love for Lagers?
Understanding what craft beers bring to the market is vital for businesses in this industry. While we have mentioned the locality of these brewers in terms of sourcing and distribution, there is more to unravel.
Craft brewers in Africa are pushing the horizons through introducing new variations of beers to the market. Thus far, Lagers have always had a strong standing in the market with well-known beers such as Tusker, Heineken, Whitecap, to name a few, dominating the Kenyan market. These beers offer a light, crisp taste with mellow and smooth notes. Yet, there is a major gap in the market for beer consisting of more hops (ingredient providing bitterness) and malt variations as well as other flavour profiles. This is where the craft beer market comes in, as brewers are producing variations such as stouts, Indian Pale Ale’s (IPAs) in combination with flavoured (sour, fruity, etc.) beers.
This allows for more exploration for those already accustomed to enjoying a beer; however, it also opens it up to new consumers of beers/individuals who do not normally drink/enjoy the taste of beer with the fruity flavouring incorporated into the beers.
So far South Africa and Kenya have strong craft beer markets, but other countries are catching up
Craft beer in South Africa was adopted in 1983 with the opening of Mitchell’s Brewery in the Western Cape, but now, South Africa has around 215 craft breweries accounting for just under 1% of the beer market in the country. The brewers are encouraging beer drinkers away from lagers and are crafting beers with local ingredients such as the sorghum grain found in many African beers. Additionally Black entrepreneurs are taking this market by storm, with Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, owner of Brewsters Craft making headlines for a female-focused brewery.
Kenya has a more ‘mature’ craft beer industry, which has been in existence for more than 10 years. They are slowly encroaching on the biggest manufacturers, EABL with 90% of the beer market and Keroche Breweries with 2%, craft beers manufacturing is expanding. So far, the breweries include Bateleur (now Bila Shaka), Kenyan Originals, 254 Brewing, Sierra Premium and Big Five Brewing with many opening their businesses in recent years.
Other countries, such as Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia are quickly approaching a good standing in this market. Nigeria’s Bature has become a renowned brewery amongst Nigerians and is expanding into Lagos. Ghana has had breweries existent for more than 17 years and is increasingly seeing new breweries pop-up. For Ghanian breweries, German methods of brewing are strictly adhered to, making these craft beers stand out. Furthermore, Ethiopia has a young yet rising beer market with two breweries that stand out: The Beer Garden Inn (2006) and the most recent, Bole Microbrewery (2020).