With the emergence of young spenders and sophisticated drinkers, the beer market is experiencing a major shift.
For most drinkers nowadays, the idea of partying is more about quality rather than quantity of alcohol imbibed. This emergent group is also more health-conscious.
This has forced a change in the club scene, alcohol packaging and the ingredients used to make beer. Bars are no longer dark spaces with hide-in booths, ill-lit dance floors and hidden DJ booths.
Instead, bar owners have invested heavily in grand interior finishings, big screens, lots of lighting fixtures, state-of-the-art bar displays, open DJ booths and spacious areas where patrons get to be seen and be the life of the party.
Also, revellers have more options to choose from in different locations, right from neighbourhood bars that are also keeping up with their upscale counterparts.
Clubs and bars have become established brands on their own and are partnering with sought-after DJs, photographers and celebrities to develop themed nights, in conjunction with alcohol brands to bring in the numbers and offer an all-rounded experience.
Key calendar events such as Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, Nairobi Restaurant Week and golf tournaments are setting the stage for entertainment entities to tailor their marketing and driving alcohol brands in the same direction.
Alcoholic brands are competing to partner with these clubs to promote their drinks.
Beer has also changed from being bottled in the conventional brown to now green bottles for Windhoek, Tuborg, Heineken and Castle Lite.
Beers have moved from just malted types to include varieties such as lite beers (which define low carbs in a beer) to light beers (looking at the alcohol percentage in the beer) and craft beers. Another trend in the Kenyan beer market is the labelling of beers with “no added sugar” message. White Cap (EABL), Balozi (EABL) and Summit (Keroche Industries) are some of the brands with the “no added sugar” label.
The most recent of this wave is beer makers sensitising the consumer on the brewing process and ingredients used.
Mutindi Ndambuki, the Windhoek brand manager in Kenya says having reintroduced their beer into the market in 2017, they have to adapt.
“We know the Kenyan consumer is discerning . We are telling the consumer what is in our beer, that it contains malted barley, hops and water,” he says.
This changing bar scene has seen even non-drinkers find Nairobi beer-selling joints ideal for meetings.
“There was a time when a bar in Nairobi was a dark place full of cigarette smoke. Everyone was drank, shouting and unruly. No one would go in there if there did not drink,” says Mercy Wanja, a teetotaller.
“But after smoking in public was banned, bars are friendly. I often meet friends there and drink soda or a smoothie as they enjoy their beer,” she says.