Local brewers defy turbulent year, invest into soft drinks

Saturday January 02 2021

SKOL Brewery has introduced mineral water and sparkling water products packed in glass bottles. PHOTO | Cyril Ndegeya


Local brewers have opted for diversification of their products that will see them invest in soft drinks production as the turbulent year punctuated by major Covid-19 disruptions.

The eco-friendly returnable glass bottle packaging for Virunga water, produced at the Nzove Skol plant, introduces a new branding for the mineral water mass market.

“Ninety-five per cent of the water market is plain water, we intend to tap into that market as well as the sparkling water market, we are here to create value not volumes” said Ivan Wulffaert, general manager of Skol brewery.

Mr Wulffaer said the packaging in re-align with the government's agenda of reducing plastic waste pollution.

The Rwf450milion investment into the new product by Skol, in a new product is yet another demonstration of defiance by the brewery industry, in a year when sales were seriously challenged by Covid-19 restrictions.

Bars, hotels and restaurants were closed for the better part of the year, to the point that even when hotels were opened, selling alcohol was prohibited.


Festivities like weddings were also restricted to a few people, before they were completely cancelled in December as the country experienced another Covid-19 resurgence.

However, the country’s brewers, Bralirwa and Skol soldiered on, continuing production and retaining workers with a hope that things will normalise.

When asked how the disruptions that came with the Covid-19 pandemic could have affected the brewer, Mr Wulffaert said the company was not seriously affected.

“In terms of business we expect to do the same volumes as we did last year, if you compare this with an economy that slumped by 12 percent, we are doing well, we have not laid off any workers”.

“It is only the cost of observing Covid-19 measures that cost us Rwf10 million every month, we also had some delays with the trucks due to logistical glitches. But we normally have enough raw material stocks, so we were not much affected” said Mr Wulffaert.

Despite the packaging being unique and new, Skol’s Virunga water will face competition in carving its place in the mineral water market, where it is likely to face stiff competition from existing mineral water producers like Inyange, Nil and Akandi.