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By Moses Kaketo
For over a decade, Rwenzori Natural Mineral Water has been a King in the bottled water market controlling more than 65 percent of the market. There are over 40 bottled water brands in Uganda.
Fast-forward, Rwenzori water is said to be facing tough times and the rate at which the once mighty brand is losing out to competition is making heads turn at plot 588 – 592 Jinja Road Namanve Industrial Area 10241.
The first company to venture into bottled water Uganda[ in 1993] as well as receive the ISO 9002 certification for developing and maintaining a high quality management system, has seen her market share drop from over 65 percent to 45 percent today.
You have probably noticed the recent heightened marketing and advertising campaigns mean to drive sales and regain her lost market share.
The biggest gainer has been Highland Natural Mineral water manufactured by NC Beverages Limited in Kawempe.
NC beverages winning formula is: price, quantity, quality and wider distribution. The 1.5 litre Highland bottle is sold at Ugx. 1,500, while Rwenzori’s 1-litre goes for 2,000. Ugx. 500 is such a big difference, yet you get more quantity for Highland. In fact, everywhere you find Rwenzori, there is Highland water. So if the quality is said to be the same, which one would you go for?
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More importantly, more Ugandan entrepreneurs have noticed the gold mine in bottled water. Unconfirmed sources say some Bottled water companies simply tap National Water or simply any water, pack, label and send to the market.-does this explain why some brands are so cheap? Yet the operating costs are very high? Never mind, they don’t produce a lot. Many of the companies sell than 5,000 cantons a month.
One also needs to understand that every region in Uganda now has bottled water brand to serve it. In Hoima, there is Albertine Mineral Water, said to be owned by Kabagambe Kalisa – son of the soil. The locals have all the reasons to abandon other brands for Albertine Water.
In Masaka, the Catholic Parish, do produce bottled water called Banana Font. Mbarara, Tororo, West Nile, etc, all have their regional bottled water. These brands have eaten into once Rwenzori Natural Mineral water market. And in Kampala, the competition is even worse.
Rwenzori Water is said to be one of the top three mineral water brands in terms of quality, Ugandans seem not value this. The origin of Rwenzori Mineral Water is from a rich artisan well in Namanve, around one of Uganda’s natural wetlands. The source has one of the purest fresh, natural mineral water in Uganda. The water is bottled at the source using modern manufacturing and production technology. Unfortunately, Ugandans don’t seem to value this.
Some of the Bottled water brands on the market are said to be wanting and their quality is questioned. But, Ugandans don’t seem to value, quality, in most cases, they go for anything near them, that is cheaper and most cases quantity is a priority to them, no matter the quality.
Back then, Rwenzori was only bottled water for high-end functions including hotels. The main challenger on this front is Wavah Water, Owned by seasoned entrepreneur WavaMunno. Wavamunno is said to be highly connected, given the high quality of his water, penetrating high-end market has not been that hard.
Reports indicate, the Rwenzori Water export market has also been heavily eaten into. The company used to earn big from exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Southern Sudan among others. These countries have since developed their own brands that are said to be popular. Add transport costs, taxes, Rwenzori is fighting a losing war.