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Guinness Nigeria’s Orijin: Beer or Bitters?

Folake Olagunju     I

It is no longer strange in Nigeria to see young men, even smartly dressed ones, hurriedly buying a bottle of bitters early in the morning before heading off for the day’s work. Varieties like Pasa Bitters, Alomo Bitters (from Ghana), Osomo Bitters (by Yem-Kem), Sapiro (by Yoyo Bitters) and Agya Appiah Bitters (from Ghana) have since become the drink of choice for many men, partly due to their perceived ability to increase the libido.

Currently, the Nigerian bitters market is estimated to generate over N32.2 billion annually, and this has suddenly led to the springing up of various brand of bitters from different companies.

According to analysts, the growing market is as a result of the rising change in the taste of consumers, who believe that bitters contain body purifiers, anti-malaria components and ingredients that strengthen the virility of men.

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Another factor partly responsible for this upsurge in the market is the rebranding effort of many brewers, who are increasingly innovating, so as to compete effectively and gain market dominance.

It is interesting that bitters are even getting more popular in the market as brewers struggle to outsmart the other in the market. Late last year, it seemed like a strange entrance into the bitters market, when Guinness Nigeria Plc, a leading brewing company in Nigeria, launched its own brand of bitters, Orijin, into the seemingly saturated market.

Initially, it seemed out of place for a brewery giant like Guinness Nigeria Plc to venture into a totally different terrain, other than the one it is known for, to compete with the commonly known bitters.

However, with increased marketing efforts, Orijin is becoming a common sight in beer parlours, and is even rubbing shoulders with top beer brands, in Lagos, Port Harcourt and other Nigerian cities. It is noteworthy that Orijin bitters was introduced in Port Harcourt and Ibadan in August last year, but only made its way into Lagos, this April.

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“Guinness Nigeria Plc is focused on creating new products that appeal to Nigerian tastes and embrace the Nigerian culture. The consumer landscape has changed immensely over the years; consumption of spirits is growing and our consumers now desire brands other than the generic ‘local’ options. Globalised media and urbanization has fuelled aspirations for new and exciting experiences, yet culture remains incredibly important. It was with this as the central idea that we created Orijin Bitters,” the company said during the launch of the product in April.

According to the brewers, Orijin is an alcoholic blend with the flavours of African herbs and fruits, combined to give a refreshing bitter-sweet taste. Seni Adetu, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Guinness Nigeria Plc, speaking at the launch of the drink, said that “Orijin is a drink that will appeal to the modern African, who wants to enjoy the best things of life, while still holding on to their African roots and heritage.”

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The fact that Orijin Bitters is selling at prices significantly higher than the other regular bitters in the market, and also come in packages similar to some brands of beer, leaves one wondering whether the place of Orijin is in the bitters or the beer market. It also brings a question of who it is really targeted at. This is because, while some other bitters can be gotten for as low as N150, Orijin Bitters, which is available as Orijin, in 30cl and 75cl bottles, and Orijin Bitters, in 20cl and 75cl bottles, go for as much as N500 to N700 and N300 to N1, 000, respectively.

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A Chief Reputation Strategist, Upticomm Marketing, Segun McMedal, reasons that, with the introduction of the new product, Guinness Nigeria might be exploiting the huge opportunity in the lower rung of the market, which has enough money. This thinking is however at odds, considering the pricing.

Another issue that draws a blurred line as to where the new product actually belongs is the fact the Guinness Nigeria describes its Orijin in 30cl and 75cl bottles as an alcoholic blend with the flavours of African   herbs and fruits, combined to give a refreshing bitter-sweet taste, which can be enjoyed chilled, straight from the bottle, with friends and having 6% ABV per 300ml.

On the other hand, it describes it Orijin Bitters in 20cl and 75cl bottles as is a unique bittersweet spirit, blended with the flavours of specially selected African herbs and fruits, combined to give a bitter-sweet taste. This variant (if it may be described as that) has 30% ABV and is available in two SKUs – 75cl Glass & 20cl PET.

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Yet, both are a supposed to be inspired by a tradition of herbal drinks – a vibrant celebration of modern African culture, which embodies all that is alive and exciting in Africa today.
This is somewhat confusing to say the least.

It is worthy to note that, in advertising the product, the giant brewer has been somewhat silent on the name Guinness, thereby positioning Orijin Bitters to stand on its own, as it is believed that the stance may give it a better chance at competing in the market.

While this could be a good option for the brand, it is pertinent for the brewers to make a clear-cut distinction between the two products.

 

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