Delta going back to its roots

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Mamvura’s Market Minute
The jury is out on whether Delta, which makes more than half its profit out of sorghum beer, will make a success of Natbrew in Zambia. As indicated in commentary following the results, the sorghum beer market in Zambia is slightly bigger than ours at 4m hectolitres, and volumes (as far as the Zambian experts are concerned) are never reliant on “uptrading” and “downtrading” between sorghum and lager.

It is a deeply fragmented market in Zambia and Natbrew’s near total market dominance as the original Heinrich’s Chibuku has been whittled down to a 25 percent market share as other players in the industry cheat with lower cost bulk deliveries.

At this juncture, Mamvura thought he would add an historical footnote. As much we would believe Chibuku to be firmly part of our landscape, it is actually a Zambian creation.

German nationals, Max Heinrich and Gustav Braun, had been interred in Rhodesia during Second World War and had taken to making various brews from potatoes to “relieve the boredom”.

When the war ended, the two decided to commercialise their operations by focusing on the traditional beer market, which relied mostly on availability of product rather than a standard recipe.

The brewers adopted the habit of keeping a book in which they recorded all adjustments to the raw material quantities as well as any changes to brewing techniques.

Brewery staff began calling the beer “Chibuku” — a reference to the book — since only by brewing according to the book could they be sure of producing the same beer consumers liked.

Together with some farmers, Heinrich Syndicate opened their first brewery south of the border in 1962 in Masvingo and after UDI, Lonrho, which had acquired the business from Heinrich and his partners, sold a 50 percent interest to Rhobrew in 1968.

In 1971, Rhobrew announced a bid to take its share to over 50 percent and it announced an unconditional offer for the balance in 1976, the year Rhobrew sold Willards Foods to Cairns.

So the Natbrew acquisition will see Delta going back to its genesis, a rather sentimental story in itself.

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