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Kenya’s middle class drowns Sh568m worth of Scotch whisky

A barman displays whiskies at a Nairobi pub. The city is experiencing a surge of whisky consumption. PHOTO | FILE
A barman displays whiskies at a Nairobi pub. The city is experiencing a surge of whisky consumption. PHOTO | FILE  

Kenyans guzzled Sh568 million worth of Scotch whisky last year as a growing middle class splashed on middle to high-end alcoholic spirits, a report by a Scotland-based association which monitors the industry shows.

This represented a six per cent growth from the previous year’s Sh534 million, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) whose members include Diageo, the East African Breweries Limited’s (EABL) parent firm.

Kenya has recorded over the past five years significant growth in whisky sales driven by demand from the growing, well-travelled middle class with high disposable incomes.

“This uptake of Scotch is being driven by Kenya’s increasingly sophisticated middle class as well as the country’s growing economy,” Helena Mumdzjana, SWA’s trade policy manager for Africa, said in an interview.

The association gathers its data from UK customs officials and internal research, implying that its figures exclude Scotch that gets into the country through non-formal entries.

SWA’s data only looks at Scotch whisky, indicating that Kenyans drunk more than the reported Sh568 million when whiskeys from American and Irish distilleries are included.

The data includes brands such as Dewar’s Ballantine’s The Glenlivet, Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse, the Johnnie Walker range, Cragganmore, Cardhu, J & B, Talisker and Vat 69 among several others.

“Kenya was not affected by global economic crisis whose negative effects are still being felt by multinational members. This opportunity in East Africa has seen them produce more product for this promising market,” said Ms Mumdzjana.

According to data from Euromonitor International, Kenya’s middle class is projected to grow 28 per cent from 2011 to 2020, one of the highest forecasts in the world.

This projection has caught the eye of firms like EABL which has in the past five years introduced new brands such as Talisker Storm and Talisker 10, brands that have helped its spirits business maintain a double-digit growth trajectory.

Two years ago, SWA member William Grant & Sons, which manufactures Grants and Tullamore Dew, hired a new area manager to help identify new opportunities and expand its regional distribution network.

Scotch is a term specifically used to describe whiskies that are produced at a single distillery, using one or more grains, and which are respectively called single malts or single grain whiskies.

The term is also used to refer to ‘blends,’ which are whiskies that are made from mixing several single malts or single grain drinks that are sourced from different distilleries.

Ms Mumdzjana says the Kenya business is mainly driven by single malt whiskies, adding that a high advertising spend by its members has improved brand awareness among consumers.

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