The Innovation 50: How this Ugandan beer supports local farmers and communities

The Innovation 50: How this Ugandan beer supports local farmers and communities

You may not have heard of Eagle Lager. But if you live in Uganda or Mozambique, the brand is something of a local hero. Local, that is, despite the fact it is owned by global giant AB InBev.

Eagle Lager is an Innovation 50 brand because it has achieved a rare feat: although created by a global company it is a local brand that contributes to local development.

Almost 20 years ago, SABMiller (before it was acquired by AB InBev) wanted to launch a local beer in Uganda that achieved two objectives: grew its market share in the country and contributed to the local community.

With agriculture being a mainstay of the Ugandan economy, this meant ingredients could be sourced locally but not the malt, hops, water and maize of traditional lagers. So the company took on the challenge of establishing a completely new supply chain to work with local farmers.

The key local ingredient in Uganda was sorghum. In Mozambique it was cassava. By using local ingredients, the governments of both countries gave the company (local subsidiary Nile Breweries) an excise break, which enabled a lower product cost. Using local raw materials also brought down the cost as it avoided expensive imports.

Eagle soars

Local has been the watchword for its media strategy too – opting for community-based regional radio and outdoor in rural areas, to build the brand.

And since goats are highly-prized in rural Uganda, the brand has held competitions each harvest to win a goat.

Using all local ingredients at a local brewery, the Eagle Lager brand took only five years to account for half of all the subsidiary’s sales. And by 2016, 20,000 smallholder farmers had earned income from production of Eagle Lager, pocketing them around £10m.

Socially, the brand supplied 93m litres of water annually to 160m people, delivered 51 education scholarships and – in a country with high levels of HIV/Aids rates – ensured 25,000 farmers and stakeholders were screened and supported when testing positive.

A model for localisation?

The brand has given local communities greater pride, the confidence that they can control their own futures, and allowed people who otherwise would not have been able to afford it, the opportunity enjoy a refreshing, local pint.

Eagle Lager is one of the brands that is enabling AB InBev to continue supporting smallholder farmers as part of its 2025 Sustainability Goals, which support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Local Hero approach also offers a model for multinationals that, potentially facing a counter to globalisation, need to create local brands fully integrated into the local community through cooperation and involvement right from the start.