Angola-based Refriango has a rapidly expanding presence in Africa with drinks such as Blue fruit soft drink, Red Cola, Speed energy drink and Tutti fruit juice.
João Sampaio: The African countries, especially the sub-Saharan countries, are growing strongly at a double-digit level. These countries have a high growth index and represent very attractive markets. In most of these countries, we have a leading international brand and several smaller and local players struggling for a position in the market and for consumer preferences, through positioning.
By some standards, the beverage industry is a low investor in innovation. It is an industry that focuses on brand activation, outdoor and TV communication. On the opposite side, we have a consumer who, in spite of having a low income, is very demanding with their brand in terms of quality, innovation and industrial processes. The challenge for these local brands is to find a way to react to those demands.
João Sampaio: Refriango is the leader in soft drinks in Angola. In a highly competitive market and with strong international players, we have a 10 year history of continuous double digit growth. Internationally, Refriango is referenced in terms of technology, quality and innovation. During the past six years we have been recognised through winning several international quality awards. It was because of this quality and innovation that we began to follow an international route, three years ago, starting with 10 countries such as Mozambique, Portugal, Namibia and Congo. But our ambition is wider and our goal in five years is that the international markets represent 10% of our sales.
João Sampaio: This route has been built taking into consideration four important aspects:
• Knowing the markets. The consumer is very demanding and dynamic. We have to find a way to meet their needs and demands, according to their habits, lifestyle and preferences in order to adapt international concepts to the local reality.
• Quality. Since the consumer is so demanding, we have to follow the best practices worldwide to build a reliable brand and product.
• Innovation. We have to know how to exceed the international brands, especially because these brands don’t usually invest in innovation in these countries.
• Emotional connection. Communication, brand activations, endorsement, sponsorships, events are
ways to became closer to the consumer. Music or Social Responsibility events are usually the main attractions to the market.
João Sampaio: It is all about understanding the consumer. Through our studies, we found out that there was a strong drive to consume homemade baobab juices. It is a fruit juice with many functional benefits for your health and well-being and so it is appreciated all over the country.
We spent three years developing the best formula. We took a consumer panel along to our research and development labs in Europe to test the juice formula and ensure that it was made to the taste of the original homemade recipe. It was not easy to develop the right formula because each panel member had their own recipe and because it is a fruit that has not been produced commercially before.
Tutti Múcua became a successful case study and had a tremendous impact on the market. In three years, this new flavour has sold around 25 million litres. Tutti Múcua boosted and repositioned the whole range and two years later we developed another fruit juice based on the same methodology: Tutti Soursop.
João Sampaio: These are the two important details that must be remembered when developing a beverage
for African markets.
Taste is the most important aspect and is essential for the brand to be considered as a valid choice by the consumer.
Packaging has to be truly innovative. The image has to stand out according to the desired positioning and, at the same time, it has to meet the market constraints regarding storage, transportation, and this young informal market.
João Sampaio: As mentioned before, one of the important aspects for national brands is to promote their credibility and reliability through endorsement. Relevant and reliable opinion leaders help a brand to reinforce its credibility, they also assure the consumer of product quality and create an emotional connection. It is also a question of status.
In repositioning Red Cola we had three main challenges:
• Reinforce the quality of the product, as cola has a very recognisable standard taste and is one that is not easy to achieve.
• Achieve innovative packaging. We were bold in adopting the sleek can, which is a totally new format in Africa.
• Promote the credibility and reliability of the brand. Zona 5 was the obvious choice. It is a hip hop band that represents a modern, committed and hard-working generation, with a bright future ahead. A generation with a positive attitude in life.
João Sampaio: The informal market or street market represents 70% of our sales, so obviously the majority of our investment is focused on the outside.
Therefore, our main touch points meet this appeal for outdoor living, such as: outdoor campaigns, campaigns using taxis, street sampling, pit stops, and brand activations in busy neighbourhoods.
João Sampaio: Brands in this industry are always reinventing themselves. The beverage category is very competitive and our consumers are used to seeing something new all the time.
Zooming in on some of our latest innovative projects:
Blue – one of the main success factors is the Blue Polpa range, where we added fruit pieces to our original juice. Blue Arte is also a good example: a limited edition where we invited five Angolan artists to decorate
Red Cola – last year we changed the formula, the packaging, and positioning, in a way that has doubled our sales.
Speed – is a brand that has had triple digit growth for two years in a row. One of the main reasons is the formula. This is a quality product that could be sold in any part of the world, with a strong image and positioning. Speed has grown thanks to proximity with the consumer at the sporting event ‘Speed – No Limits’: This is the first extreme radical event in Angola, with the biggest international stars in BTT, in line and skateboard. We are now preparing for the second edition.
João Sampaio: In Africa, smart phone and tablet penetration is still low. This could be a great growth opportunity but at this moment it is also an obstacle.
Nevertheless, brands like Blue are outstanding in the social media world with a strong digital strategy. Using colloquial and fun language, we are a source of information (promoting brand activations and events) and we also offer our fans the chance of once in a lifetime experience such as live chat with well
known African artists.
At the moment, the Blue Facebook page has more than 75,000 likes and it is ranked among the top Facebook pages in Angola.
João Sampaio: Refriango brands don’t need an upgrade to achieve an international status. We already have international high standards for both quality and production technology. Our company has a Quality Certification for production processes and for our laboratories, which has allowed us to win several international quality prizes. We also have innovative packaging (such as the slim can) which make our products suitable for sale both in Angola and in the US. For us, internationalisation is a question of strategy and investment.
João Sampaio: At this stage, we can give you three examples of successful products:
João Sampaio: We wouldn’t have had a 10 year high of continuous double digit growth if it wasn’t for all the facilities we now have. These investments have helped us to begin internationalisation.
To guarantee our product quality we had to modernise our lines, optimise them and make them more effective. We have also invested in new lines. We now have two more lines for cans, one for PET, one for Tetra Pak, one for glass bottles and two more lines for water, one of them for 19 litre bottles of bulk water.
In the past two years, we have almost doubled our production capacity.
João Sampaio: Through our experience in research, we have been able to identify potential growth categories and countries and we are developing some large projects that will have a major impact and require international projection. These new projects require substantial industrial investment and will involve years of hard work.
Refriango is a company with worldwide ambitions. Our brands have the quality and an innovative positioning that allows us to adapt to any market. After establishing ourselves in Africa, we are now looking to make a move into both North and South American markets.
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