Sorghum beer, a booming industry in Africa, has found success in Malawi through breweries like Chibuku Products Ltd (CPL). With a market share of 99%, CPL is the country’s leading producer of sorghum beer, making it a crucial customer for packaging supplier Nampak Malawi. Their longstanding partnership of over 50 years has solidified the intertwined nature of their businesses.
“Nampak Malawi has been their carton supplier of choice for their products for much of our shared history. If CPL sneezes, Nampak catches a cold – that’s how deeply intertwined each of our business interests are,” says Chrissy Nyirenda, commercial manager of Nampak Malawi, emphasising the strong relationship between the two companies.
Nampak Malawi’s conical carton packaging solution for CPL’s fresh sorghum beer product, Chibuku Shake Shake, was recognised as a finalist at the AfriStar 2022 Awards. “We as Nampak visited the different bars and beer halls to talk to customers about the returnable bottles, and they were deeply unhappy with the packaging choice,” shares Nyirenda, highlighting the negative customer feedback received during the returnable bottle experiment.
Under previous ownership, CPL decided to test the feasibility of a returnable plastic bottle solution as an alternative to one-way cartons. “The previous owners saw this as an alternative to one-way cartons that would allow the business to save on packaging costs by reusing the same bottles over and over,” explains the situation.
However, the challenges that emerged during the trial were unforeseen. “The low sales and customer feedback told us that the market wanted Chibuku Shake Shake to return to cartons,” Nyirenda states, emphasising the impact of consumer perception on the decision to revert to carton packaging.
“The turnaround has been positively overwhelming, and we couldn’t have asked for a better result. Brewery sales are now trending towards an all-time record high,” expresses Nyirenda, highlighting the remarkable success witnessed since the reintroduction of cartons in 2020.
“The conical carton is a fit-for-purpose packaging solution for the sorghum beer industry that has stood the test of time,” says Shaun du Plessis, managing director of Nampak Zambia and Malawi, emphasising the suitability of cartons for the industry.
Gerald Bowler, managing director of CPL, affirms the significance of meeting consumer preferences: “We continue to work with Nampak Malawi to ensure we have the best packaging solutions for our products that not only work in the best interests of our business but also meet the needs and preferences of our consumers.”
Overall, the experience with the returnable bottle experiment serves as a valuable lesson for the industry. “The low sales and customer feedback told us that the market wanted Chibuku Shake Shake to return to cartons,” concludes Nyirenda, emphasising the importance of aligning packaging choices with consumer demands. He says cartons have proven to be the preferred and sustainable packaging choice for fresh sorghum beer in Malawi, ensuring product hygiene, safety, and consumer satisfaction.