Nigerian Bottling Company – The 24/7 Beverage Company

We learn how the Nigerian Bottling Company is finding its way into every corner of everyday Nigerian life.

This year Nigeria celebrates its 60th anniversary as an independent country, so in some ways, it’s quite surreal for the Nigerian Bottling Company to be looking forward to celebrating its 70th anniversary next year. The company was founded in 1951 as a subsidiary of the A.G. Leventis Group with a franchise to bottle and sell products of The Coca‑Cola Company in Nigeria. Fast forward 69 years and the Group is present in 28 countries, serving over 600 million people with close to 200 brands in the market.

“We have come a long way with a strong heritage,” acknowledges the bottling company’s Managing Director, Matthieu Seguin. “We operate all across Nigeria, we have eight manufacturing plants from Lagos to Borno to Port Harcourt. We have 52 Commercial Territories, strong coverage of Nigeria. Our variety of brands range from Coca Cola, to Five Alive, Eva Water, Monster, and Predator Gold. We also distribute Premium Spirits, this is a relatively new addition. Our brand portfolio and offerings are all in line with our ‘24/7’ strategy.”

The thinking behind our “24/7” beverage partner strategy is simple. For every occasion, and at every point in the day, the Nigerian Bottling Company wants to have a beverage in its portfolio for its consumers to enjoy.

“Our goal is to be there for all occasions during the day – when having a meal with a drink, in the morning when you refresh with a Five Alive drink, or in the evening when you need to keep your energy up and you grab a can of Monster. In the past, we were really a Coke and Sprite company but over the years we’ve added Five Alive, a couple of years ago we entered the Premium Spirits market which in Nigeria is what some people drink as they unwind in the evening,” Seguin explains. “We are looking at coffee, which is something we want to explore as a direction because the Coca-Cola company has bought Costa Coffee. We’ve launched that already in nine markets. It’s a very niche market and we want to explore that also in our market. We can cater to almost any segment of the population here, which is important when you’ve 200 million people with all kinds of incomes and backgrounds.”

A Journey of Transformation

While the Nigerian Bottling Company’s loyalty to and passion for its home country hasn’t changed, the business has been undergoing some big changes, with more to come.

“We’ve been on a journey of transformation over the last decade. I was here in the Nigeria business for five years from 2011 to 2016, then I left for four years and came back. In the last ten years alone, we invested over a billion euros into the business operations, new manufacturing lines and even logistics capabilities,” Seguin says. “It’s impressive how much we’ve accelerated our growth in the last two or three years and we’re committed to continuing this investment. This year we launched a brand-new canning line, the only one in Nigeria. That’s a huge commitment to investing  in Nigeria.”

Even though working in Nigeria comes with some challenges, Seguin is confident the company can overcome them. He says, “The economy in Nigeria can be very difficult, things aren’t going the way we want, with cost increases driven by sugar and scarcity of other inputs. It’s not an easy environment, it can be quite draining from a pure profitability perspective, but we’re committed to this market, to working with the government and our partner the Coca Cola company. I would humbly request more government support through consistent and business-friendly policies, especially fiscal and monetary policies.”

For Seguin, these challenges aren’t an obstacle to fulfilling the Nigerian Bottling Company’s Vision, they are part of it.

“It’s all about embracing the challenges and being clear on our vision. We’ve developed a very clear vision to be the 24/7 beverage partner in Nigeria with a clear focus on certain areas. How do we leverage our portfolio? How do we win with our customer? How can we drive competitiveness and investment?” he asks. “We want to double the business between now and 2025, invest in our people and talent to sustain those goals. The direction is very clear, how we get there is that we need to be nimble and agile. We’ve brought the whole organisation together in 2020 to improve our ability to react to crises like COVID-19. There is no better way to achieve our goals than to involve people.”

A Nigerian Company

Despite working with probably the most globally recognizable brand on the planet, this connection to Nigeria and its people goes deeper than marketing.

“Our commitment to the community is an extension of how we treat our own people. In Nigeria you can’t do business if you aren’t linked to the community,” Seguin tells us. “For example, in line with our commitment towards supporting our communities on water projects, last year, we successfully enabled the delivery of  safe water to over a million people in Kano State. Doing good is essential for doing business.”

These efforts have gone beyond the Nigerian Bottling Company’s own business, into collaborative efforts with other companies and agencies.

“For us in Nigeria, we realised that tackling these social concerns on our own is not enough to make the level of impact we seek, so we have formed a coalition with companies such as Cadbury, IBM, Nestle, Nigerian Breweries to mention a few, to see how can we join forces and really make a difference in youth development. Again, we want to do something about plastic waste, and we’re pleased to have been elected to the board of Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance earlier this year. We are committed to deploying innovative PET collection and recycling solutions in Nigeria to keep the environment clean and create jobs while doing so,” Seguin says.

The Nigerian Bottling Company’s connection to the country can be found at every level, from the supply chain to recruitment.

“Deliberately, 90% of what we use in our operations is from local supply, which was not the case even a few years back,” Seguin says. “If we include the whole supply chain, we provide 15 million people employment in Nigeria.”

The Greatest Asset

The biggest resource we have to offer, however, isn’t a sparkling soft drink.

“Our greatest asset is our people. That’s usually what CEOs say but in our work it’s vital,” says Seguin proudly.

Of course, the last six months have proven this point more than ever.

“At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria, the front-liners in our business, people in sales or operations, those on the lines in all of our eight plants around the country went out every single day despite several challenges, to ensure that we were able to continue serving and hydrating the people of Nigeria. Of course, they took the necessary precautions and were provided with the relevant protective equipment” Seguin says. “They really are the biggest asset we have. We haven’t stopped operations for a single day and I say that with great pride in our team, in particular for front liners and those along the supply chain. Six months ago, we wouldn’t have dreamed about being able to do this but our people have demonstrated an incredible degree of agility – the team has been agile and creative and our digital business has really grown as well. In addition, our people demonstrated a strong commitment to our communities during the lockdown, by donating generously and volunteered to provide food for the vulnerable in our communities.”

It’s also of paramount importance to Seguin that this team reflect the makeup of Nigeria as a whole.

“Diversity is very important in Nigeria and in the Nigerian Bottling Company we’re committed to this agenda and want to drive it even further within our workforce,” Seguin says. “90% of our customers are women, but in our workforce, in sales and supply chain this isn’t currently reflected. We’re very committed to accelerating female talent in particular. We consider the development of women across the board to be important because it’s good for business. This is something very important for us.”

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