In 1999 SABMiller acquired Zambia’s National Breweries and started to produce Chibuku, a traditional opaque beer. It is made from locally grown sorghum and maize. Because of its resemblance to home-brews it resonates with the home-brew consumer.
Chibuku continues to ferment after it has been packaged due to the presence of yeast in the beer. Chibuku starts off as 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and reaches 5% ABV after a few days. Mainstream Chibuku is packaged in a 1 litre carton.
Drinking Chibuku creates its own ritual. In order to mix the grainy content, you must put your finger over the valve at the top, give it a good shake (devotees call the drink ‘shake-shake’), then the top of the carton is cut open and the foaming drink is shared.
SABMiller sees Chibuku as the entry point for low income consumers with the hope that they would later move up to more premium beers.
Due to the short shelf life of Chibuku, not more than seven days, Super Chibuku has been developed and comes in a 600 ml plastic bottle with a 21-day shelf life.
In 2011 SABMiller launched Impala, the first commercial-scale cassava-based clear beer in Mozambique. Cassava is a root vegetable that grows in tropical and subtropical Africa. After it has been identified as a possible base for beer-brewing it took years of research and innovation to overcome the challenges of processing cassava, which is a highly perishable root.
For this project SABMiller has partnered with the Dutch Agricultural Development and Trading Company (DADTCO). The problem was solved with mobile units that travel to the farmers in a 100 mile radius around their brewery in northern Mozambique. The cassava is processed into a pulp that can be used for around six months as opposed to 24 hours for unprocessed cassava. It is expected that the cultivation of raw cassava that will be used in producing Impala, will create employment for over 1,500 smallholder farmers.
Impala is sold at between 25% to 30% less than mainstream lagers. Chibuku is even cheaper.
By producing cheaper beers that look like home-brews and lagers from familiar grains and roots, SABMiller has managed to swing many consumers to the formal market.