Making it Great for Everyone
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
The recent announcement of the Distell Group Ltd. South Africa acquisition of a majority share in Kenya Wine Agencies Ltd (KWAL) is the beginning of a very exciting adjustment for KWAL, virtue of a strong combination of shareholders and concerted expertise on both an international and local level.
KWAL was formed in 1969 as an incorporated government agency with the sole purpose of providing the distribution of imported wine and spirits. The Company went on to diversify its product offering locally, rebranding itself as a commercial winery in 1982, importing and growing grapes to be fermented and crafted locally.
In the current day, functioning as a beverage Company which deals in both alcoholic drinks – including predominantly wine and spirits – and non-alcoholic products – a variety of 100 percent pure fruit juices – KWAL’s service includes manufacturing, import and export of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, distribution and sale, continuously committing to quality in all aspects of business.
The acclaim of its products is of pivotal importance to the Company, particularly products such as wine which is a flagship product of KWAL appreciated by discerning consumers and customers. It is the delight and value found in its products that the Company continuously strives to achieve for both its clientele and stakeholders.
“Over the years we have hit a number of milestones as a Company which have crafted us into the success that we are today,” explains Carlos Gomes, Managing Director at Kenya Wine Agencies. “We have launched numerous successful brands, including the flagship Kingfisher brand originally launched in 1982, and revamped in the latter part of 2016.”
In 1998, KWAL moved into producing spirits including Hunter’s Choice whiskey and Kibao vodka. Its innovative qualities have enabled the Company to evolve leaps and bounds, and it is this philosophy that is its foremost attribute and has led to obtaining a highly respected reputation as a producer of quality brands.
Over time the Company has gone forwards and backwards somewhat in terms of its warehousing facilities in both Rwanda and Uganda. KWAL has offices and depots in five main spots across Kenya, with plans to expand further.
“I joined the team in July last year, which was around the time that difficult strategic decisions needed to be made and we decided to close both our Rwanda and Uganda offices as they were proving to be unprofitable,” explains Gomes. “We have now consolidated our efforts into Kenya alone, and once we feel the time is right we will look at our neighbouring countries again.”
A small proportion of the business that KWAL conducts is still export based. Looking forward with the number of brands under the Distell umbrella that the Company could leverage on in conjunction with its brands, export options will begin to be a more attractive prospect; and it will be well poised to address these options in a more deliberate manner.
In order to attain the projected growth that KWAL hopes to make in the following years, significant investments are required to sustain the uptake in business.
“We know that a great number of investments will be required during the next three to five years,” affirms Gomes. “A large amount has already been spent, primarily around production and quality assurance equipment, supporting our quest for perfection and sustainability in all we do.
“At present we have three packaging lines, all of which have been privy to an abundance of investment and refurbishing over the past few years, and currently we are in the process of a USD 5 million Tetra Pak line, ensuring that we have the latest technology available.”
In order to stay ahead in such a fast moving industry, KWAL is very aware of the importance of keeping its brand looking modern and up-to-date and therefore it is in the process of refurbishing and modernising its Kingfisher and Viceroy brandy packaging; the Viceroy bottles being unique to Kenya.
Gomes explains: “The core brands continue to be widely respected by our Kenyan consumers, who are well aware that KWAL brands are of the highest quality. However, we have recognised that at times our packaging can look a little bit dated and we are working hard to make adjustments in that area.”
Of course, making such vast investments would be pointless without the right people.
It is therefore one of the core values in the Company that its people are its enduring advantage and most valued asset ; and due to that, it invests heavily in them in terms of training and development, enabling the workforce and Company to progress simultaneously.
Gomes adds: “We are incredibly proud of our dedicated workforce, with a staff compliment of 200 people which aside from me are 100 percent Kenyan.”
KWAL retains a simple philosophy both in terms of its staff and its products, to pull from Kenya first. It is important for the local economy and also for the costs to the Company to make a concerted effort to do this, and then if it is not available in Kenya it will look to external sources, all in an effort to make the supply chain as efficient as possible.
“The vast majority of our packaging is obtained from local suppliers with only a few select specialist products that we have to import,” continues Gomes. “We also try to support our local community in other ways, in order to have more of a direct impact on our surroundings.”
At present KWAL is undertaking a project which aims to encourage disadvantaged communities to undertake a bottle collection programme for recycling purposes. Bottle manufacturers in the area will buy this glass for recycling.
“As well as glass recycling, there are a couple of innovative and creative artists in the area that can use these bottles in their work,” explains Gomes. “We will strive to continue supporting that initiative for as long as possible, while also supporting other groups and organisations such as local rugby, which we are very proud to work with.
“Moving forward we would also like to focus more of our efforts on wildlife programmes such as the intiative championed by Amarula, Africa’s leading cream liqueur, in support of the anti-elephant poaching campaign, ‘Hands off our Elephants’, led by Paula Kahumbu. We are aware of course that like everything else when it comes to corporate social responsibility, no matter how much you can do there is always more to be done.”
As a precursor to the Company’s corporate regimen in striving to attain a status as the preferred and most respected beverage company working out of Eastern Africa, KWAL has continuously honed in on its core values which underpins its entire service and has facilitated the standing it now enjoys in the industry.
“We have six core values in the Company, which begin with our people who are our enduring advantage, supported by the way that we conduct ourselves with single minded quality in both our actions and the products we create,” adds Gomes. “Compounded by passion about the service we offer, a collaborative mindset in the workplace, and accountability at all times, we have a brilliant foundation for success.”
Moving forward on this rewarding trend of improvement, KWAL is hoping to establish itself as the leading alcoholic beverage company with a significant footprint in Kenya and the surrounding countries. It is all looking incredibly positive with the recent shareholding announcement from Distell and the opportunities that it will bring, and despite the slight level of uncertainty at the moment, there is also a lot of excitement bubbling beneath the surface.
Gomes concludes: “Our core values are really what define us and they are something we constantly adapt to in order to stay ahead of the curve. I have been extremely pleased with how well the workforce has consistently adapted, while maintaining high standards, and in the short time I have been here I have seen a change in the fabric of our organisation, which is incredibly rewarding to see.”