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Mineral Water Business : Who Reaps From The Stiff Competition?

The sector moved from a monopoly situation since 2010 with several operators joining the market to t

The Mineral water sector can be said to be booming in Cameroon. Before today, the commodity was considered as a luxury consumed only by the well-to-do in society. This was partly because in the past, it was relatively expensive as only one operator (Source de Tangui) existed. Also, most people had access to regular water supply from the then SNEC (defunct water supply company), opposed to present days when potable water from Cameroon Water Distribution company (CDE) and Cameroon Water Utility Cooperation (CAMWATER) cannot satisfactorily meet up with the increasing demand of water in most metropolis. Statistics show that less than 40 per cent of the Cameroonian population has access to potable water 

Created in 1979, Source Tangui, enlisted on Douala Stock Exchange since June 2006 is distributed by the leading brewery company in the country (Les Brasseries du Cameroun). The brand named after the village “Tangui” some 70km from Douala in the Littoral Region, enjoyed monopoly till 1985 when Source du Pays (Supermount) saw the light of the day. Despite the arrival of the second operator, Tangui faced unmatched competition from Supermount forcing the later to fold up in 2005. In fact, mineral water in Cameroon was synonymous to Tangui. The sector is highly democratized today with several operators joining Tangui that relished unrivalled monopoly for decades. In addition to Tangui, brands like Supermont, Sano, Ôpur, Semme, Vulcanic, Aqua Belle and Vitale.

The pluralism in the sector has spurred competition and innovation amongst the several operators. According to the 2016 annual report of Les Brasseries du Cameroun, 2.2 million hectolitres of mineral water was sold in 2016, representing a 32.6 per cent increase compared to 2015. Due to stiff competition, price warfare, and vast distribution strategies of rivals, the reports states, Brasseries du Cameroun had only 36 per cent share of the market for her mineral water brands (Tangui, Aqua Belle) The 2016 report of SABC also affirms that Source du Pays through its Supermont brand dominated the market with 52 per cent market shares, Opur which has been bought over by Source du Pays had about 6 per cent market share while SANO registered a 22 per cent market share. The report blames the disorder in the pricing policy as some operators slashed prices selling a pact of six bottles of 1.5 litres at FCFA 1500 addition to a free bottle associated to it by some operators. 

The aggressive marketing strategies and innovations introduced by the newcomers, has resulted to about 50 per cent reduction in price of bottled water from FCFA 500 to FCFA 250 today, to the benefit of consumers. Today a pack of six bottles of 1.5 litres of mineral water has dropped from over FCFA 2000 to FCFA 1500.  As the price becomes more affordable, many households in cities are compensating the water deficit with mineral water. 

Operators have also introduced different formats of 30 cl, 50 cl, 1L, 1.5 L, 5L and 10L to be affordable to all class of people. Also different flavours have been introduced notably by Source Tangui (Citron, thé vert, fraise) and Supermont with 0.5L and 1L citron flavour. However, some operators like Semme and Vulcanic have been unable to face the stiff competition in the sector and have seemingly shut down operations. 

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