Kenya Breweries has managed its virtual monopoly of the Kenyan beer market well. It has created other brands to appeal to market segments whose social aspirations require brand differentiation. Whitecap and Pilsner compete with Tusker for the middle class market, and the interloper, Tusker Malt, sold in a 300ml green bottle, was designed to appeal to professional women, but the original Tusker, sold in a half-litre brown bottle reigns supreme.
Truth be told, the beer itself is almost indistinguishable from most other commercial lagers. Mainstream beers are, after all, brewed using a standard recipe of malted barley, hops and water, with the additional of yeast, additional starches and sugars to accelerate the fermentation process, and a few additives to stabilise the bottled product. But the effectiveness of the branding creates the distinctiveness of the product.
In the mid 1990s, I spent the best part of three months managing a Coopers & Lybrand consulting project with Kenya Breweries for the design and implementation of a standard costing accounting system. Every day I drove across Nairobi to the Thika Road, past the decaying sports complex at Kasarani, to the home of Kenya Breweries at Ruaraka. It was a great assignment: not only was it professionally interesting and challenging, but it also offered an excellent daily lunch in the Executive Restaurant on the third floor of the main office building, infinitely superior to the normal daily fare available in the diners outside Coopers' offices on Kimathi Street in downtown Nairobi.African breweries have unexpected challenges, not least of which is the supply of barley. Barley is very much a temperate crop, but does grow well under tropical conditions at medium and high altitude. Kenya Breweries had a separate barley-growing operation in the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, which provided farmers with barley seed and agricultural extension services. On harvest. the barley was delivered to its malting plant in Nairobi's industrial area, and, from there, the malted barley was trucked to its three breweries in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa for brewing and bottling this iconic beer.