SUNBIZ

Brewery Battle On!

The Punja family and their successful Samoan partners Taula Brewery will be the third to launch a brewery in serious competition to this.
09 Jan 2021 11:25
Brewery Battle On!
Left: Some products of Paradise Beverages. Right: Some products of Paradise Beverages The Punja family and their successful Samoan partners Taula Brewery.

Now here’s an interesting business battle brewing, so to speak.

Industry icon Hari Punja and his Hari Punja and Sons group are taking on the long dominance of the Walu Bay brewery, now operated by Australian controlled Paradise Beverages.

Will it be third time successful for challengers to the Fiji Bitter-led market power that has long come from Walu Bay?

The Punja family and their successful Samoan partners Taula Brewery will be the third to launch a brewery in serious competition to this.

They could be the first so succeed.

But first a quick history.

Paradise Beverages

Paradise Beverages has its origins in August 1957 when the powerful Melbourne, Australia, brewing company Carlton and United Breweries set up in Suva in a joint venture with Carpenters Fiji Limited.

In 2011 what had then become Australia’s Fosters Group was taken over by multi-national brewer SABMiller, along with Fosters Fijian operations. In 2012, Fosters Group Pacific Limited was sold to Australian-listed Coca-Cola Amatil and transformed into Paradise Beverages Fiji Limited.

Challenges:

Now the challengers.

FIRST: in 1973. One of New Zealand’s then most successful brewers, Waikato Breweries, launched the South Seas brewery in Lautoka.

They challenged the Walu Bay brewery head on. They strongly pushed their brand as a better alternative.

But due to a variety of issues – including delays starting up – they did not gain enough quick traction into the Fiji Bitter dominated market.

Those who were around then say that those then running Walu Bay were aroused from any complacency and charged out to secure the market before South Seas really got started.

In 1977 the Kiwis sold their brewery at Lautoka to the Walu Bay brewery and left.

SECOND: In 2009. The only other serious challenge since was what is known as Vonu.

The successful entrepreneur Ullrich brothers from New Zealand – who had grown up in Nadi – launched the Island Brewing Company near Nadi Airport.

They aimed to use New Zealand hops and malt and modern craft brewing technology to develop their flagship Vonu Pure Lager in the Fijian tourism market, They brought a strong environment and craft beer focused marketing campaign.They did gain traction, especially in tourism properties and in upmarket bars.

They looked at export sales building on the success of Fijian brands such as Fiji Water and Pure Fiji,

But eventually they too succumbed. In 2013 they were taken over by Paradise Beverages.

So what about Hari Punja and Sons?

First thing: They have going for them is they are local and have deep, strong connections and market knowledge. Neither Waikato/South Seas nor Island Brewing/Vonu had that.

Second thing: Their partners Taula Brewery from Samoa have already had success against the Paradise Beverages subsidiary in Samoa and its Vailima beer.

Third thing: They are using brewing knowledge and technology from Germany, a country renowned for its brewing quality.

Against that Paradise Beverages – backed by the might of beverages giant Coca-Cola Amatil – have planned to upgrade Walu Bay. And maybe bring in international brand brews.

Paradise have also already faced challenges, including an increasing number of international beers already in the market,

It’s going to be an interesting battle. Two things are certain.

This is the most serious challenge by far that the always Australian controlled Walu Bay brewery has faced since its start up more than 60 years ago. And Hari Punja and Sons are powerful.

They are not a company that loses often.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj


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