There is a popular notion in Nigeria which attributes the Malt drink to goodness and it is popularly accepted as a reward for excellence or great achievement. In our childhood days, we were often promised a bottle of malt if we could achieve a certain difficult and uphill task. This particular promise often goes alongside with the popular promise of killing a whole chicken for us which is usually associated with the demand for an excellent intellectual and academic performance. The beverage is also considered a boost to the body system when one is experiencing a down time.
This takes us to the question; What really is a Malt drink?
The answer is quite simple and straight forward. A Malt drink is a lightly carbonated beverage, brewed from barley, hops, and water, much similar to beer. Though, corn and caramel coloring may also be added. It is produced by germinating and drying cereal grains such as barley, wheat, rye or spelt in a malting process. For subsequent processing into foods, the grains are crushed or ground. In food applications, malt is widely known for its use in making alcoholic beverages especially in brewing beer and also in the production of whiskey as well. It is also used as an ingredient in bread and pastries, sweets, and alcohol-free malt beverage popularly referred to as “Malt Drink”
Often referred to as the “Children’s Beer”, malt drink was traditionally, used as food for children and ailing patients but has presently become a major non-alcoholic beverage consumed by people from all works of life. Malt beverages were originally energizing products for growing children, but athletes soon discovered the product as well. Malt beverages are a good energy source, because malt contains lots of vitamins, minerals, starch, protein and trace elements. The nutrients present in malt beverages are quickly absorbed and processed by the body which makes it soothing to the digestive system.
Malt beverages, which naturally have a nutty-sweet and buttery taste are therefore an ideal source of energy for mental and physical activity. Due to the high-quality protein content, malt beverages can also relieve stress thereby making a healthy and great-tasting alternative to sweet and high-calorie soft drinks.
The love for malt drinks among non-alcoholic drinkers is increasing daily. In Nigeria, malt drinks account for a large segment of the total carbonate volumes consumed in the country. In a study by Canadean, an online research portal, it was revealed that Nigeria is the third largest malt consumer, ranking behind Venezuela and Colombia. In Venezuela, malt is a popular children’s beverage, regularly parked in kids’ lunch boxes as a healthy source of energy while in Nigeria, malt drinks are used as perfect substitutes for alcohol, regularly found amongst the drinks provided at social gatherings and ceremonies.
The number of Malt brands in the Nigerian market has been on the rise. Some years ago, Maltina and Amstel Malta produced by The Nigerian Breweries (NB) dominated the malt drink section of the carbonated drink market. However, things have taken a turn as several brands are now challenging the dominance of these drinks in the market space.
These include brands such as Dubic Malt and Malta Guinness (Guinness Plc), Grand Malt and Betamalt, (Intafact Beverages Limited and International Breweries Plc.) both owned by SABMiller, a subsidiary of Ab Inbev Beverages. The arrival of Ab Inbev, the world’s largest brewer into the Nigerian market also boosted the chances of Betamalt and Grand Malt, as it is using its financial muscle to push other malt brands off the market competition. Other malt brands like Malta Gold, Maltonic, Hi-malt, Maltex and Vitamalt are also contenders for market share in the malt drink market, and this has helped to reinforce competition in the market.
Malta Guinness was first produced in Nigeria in 1990, while Maltina has been around even longer. Both brands are popular in the market, with extensive distribution networks enhanced by strong marketing mechanisms. Another brand that has a loyal consumer base is Amstel Malta. Although it has a slightly smaller market presence, it is preferred as a premium low sugar malt drink.
In a bid to reach several customers, malt producers are now developing new marketing strategies by embarking on several promotional campaigns with the major one focusing on repackaging contents in cans, PET bottles, Tetra-Pak (paper boxes) containers, away from their traditional brown and dull glass bottles.
Arsenal Football Club recently selected Malta Guinness as the official malt drink of the club in Nigeria for the next three years, leveraging on the club’s wide followership in Nigeria. Maltina was the first to introduce the Tetra-Pak, “Maltina sip it” which made the drink handy and portable. Similarly, the Amstel malt brand has strong affiliation with Nigeria’s Nollywood and is hence regarded as the official malt drink of the industry.
Interestingly, when it comes to pricing, there is no much difference in the prices of the various brands of the Malt product as most of them are valued at almost the same price. Malta Guinness, Maltina and Amstel Malta have all grown consistently over the last few years, though Maltina stumbled some time ago, they are currently struggling to get back on track.
When it comes to popularity and preference in Nigeria, the new kid in the block which happens to be Dubic Malt seems to have captured the fancy of a greater percentage of Nigerian consumers mainly because of its premium taste and packaging. However, Malta Guinness still ranks high in the preference scale due to its sustained presence in the market which has generated a loyal customer base. This can also be said of Amstel Malta, whose presence is still dominant due to its preference by health conscious consumers who are keen on its low sugar content. Interestingly, both Dubic Malt and Malta Guinness are both coming from the stables of Guinness Plc who seem to be the leading brand in the beverage industry.
It is commendable that NAFDAC recently stipulated that only malt drinks containing less than 2.5g of sugar should be labeled as “Low Sugar”, while content between 2.5g and below 9g were classified “Light Sugar”, but the agency must continue to ensure that standards are strictly adhered to in a bid to ensure the safety of unsuspecting consumers.