The alcohol industry’s heavy marketing exploiting the pandemic and pushing for alcohol e-commerce and on-demand home delivery has increased at-home alcohol use in the African region.
Alcohol sales in Africa used to be more on-trade than off-trade before the pandemic. People in the region consumed alcohol when in pubs, bars, or restaurants. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region many of the on-trade businesses had to be temporarily closed and then operated under restrictions. This meant a drop in alcohol sales in the African region.
While a drop in sales is good for the health and wellbeing of people and communities, it also means reduced profit for Big Alcohol. And so the alcohol industry developed strategies quickly to avoid falling profits, no matter the consequences for people. Alcohol companies started pushing for at-home consumption in the African region.
Three strategies to drive alcohol use
Movendi International has previously reported on how Big Alcohol turned COVID-19 into the world’s largest marketing campaign. Pandemic tailored marketing campaigns and stunts were one of the main Big Alcohol marketing strategies during COVID-19 to maximize profits. Big Alcohol quickly adapted to the pandemic, often marketing products as coping tools during this difficult time, aligning alcohol use to physical distancing, and as an activity to do while isolating, promoting alcohol use during video calls to keep in touch with family and friends, releasing branded protective equipment, such as face masks, with company logos and many more.
Along with this heavy marketing Big Alcohol increased online alcohol sales and delivery. This strategy was underpinned by aggressive lobbying and political interference to weaken existing alcohol policies and ensure alcohol availability increases would not be hindered by public health oriented policy-making.
Diageo pushing for home alcohol use
Alcohol companies deployed such aggressive efforts to turn Africans to home alcohol users, because in most African countries consumers didn’t readily shift to at-home when the pandemic hit. As alcohol sales plummeted in Africa, the alcohol industry response was to try to artificially boost in-home alcohol use.
Diageo, the world’s largest liquor producer, quickly invested in influencer marketing in an aggressive push to turn bar revelers into home alcohol users and make its premium brands, top picks among consumers in Africa. By using paid influencers, even nano influencers who have only a couple of thousand followers, Diageo was able to turn people into at-home alcohol users and this way drive their profits.
It needed aggressive investments and a relentless push from alcohol companies because for a big part of the alcohol market in Africa, home alcohol consumption would be a new behavior.
And apparently, Big Alcohol’s strategy to turn people of the African region into at-home alcohol users has yielded results for the alcohol companies.
According to IWSR before the pandemic only about a third of alcohol sales in the African continent came from off-premise sales, but that has grown to around 66% after the pandemic.
This means there was about a one-third increase in at-home alcohol use since the pandemic.
Uganda’s case: Expansion of alcohol e-commerce
A case study for Big Alcohol’s aggressive push to drive higher alcohol sales and consumption in the African region during the COVID-19 pandemic comes from Uganda. In Uganda, the alcohol industry exploited the pandemic to heavily market alcohol, expand e-commerce and start on-demand delivery services.
This strategy proved profitable for the alcohol industry as Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) – owned by alcohol giant Diageo – recorded a 33% growth in revenue for the year ending in June.
On top of it, they also lobby aggressively for the weakening of alcohol taxation in Uganda.