There are over 70 mineral water brands on the Uganda market competing for the same market. This has resulted into increased competition which has taken the form of price wars. The unfortunate part is the consumer is not protected.
All this happens when the costs of production are increasing which raises the concerns about the quality of some of the mineral water brands on the market.
Market survey indicates Rwenzori Mineral water and Wavah Water remain the most expensive brands on the market. A carton (24 bottles) 500ml of Rwenzori goes for Ugx. 18,000. A carton of Rihamu 500ml is selling at Ugx. 15,600. While 24 bottles of Acqua Sipi 500ml go for Ugx. 12,000. Other brands sell below Ugx. 10,000 a carton.
Market reports further indicate Rwenzori commands the highest market share. The brand boosts of an effective distribution, making it readily available anywhere, anytime.
Besides the brands you see in town, there are several brands up-country whose distribution does not go beyond a district or region.
Good water depends on its source. Experts say good mineral water should be sourced from boreholes that go deep underground. The deeper you find it, the better it gets in terms of quality.
Unfortunately, it expensive to drill water from deep underground. Of the said 70 brands on the market, fewer than five companies get their water underground.
A good number of mineral water companies are found in residential areas surrounded by pit latrines. This means the water is contaminated.; This water must be thoroughly boiled, filtered and treated. That is where the problem starts.
To cut costs, many water companies’ in Uganda tap water from springs/ streams while others tap from the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC).
Those who are have Uganda at heart boil this water, purify it and add nutrients before packing it. Some companies have no time for this. They simply pack the water no matter where they source it from.
Not all Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) marks on the water bottles on the market are indeed a mark of quality. The mark has no special features to make it unique and difficult for criminals to forge. Since we ‘live in Uganda’, you can as well easily get this mark and paste it on your bottled ‘toilet’ water.
The unfortunate part is the regulators seem not to protect the players who play fair in the market. The company that follows the standards competes in the same market with those who bend the quality standards.
Market reports indicate Vero Water, manufactured by Vero Foods in Namanve off Jinja Road was the best quality water. The water is produced to the global standards. Unfortunately, the brand was not given the respect it deserved.
The brand has since disappeared on the market. Ripples Mineral water, was yet another quality brand which could not stand the unfair competition. It had to go under. The factory in Najjera-Buwate has since closed down.
You can also blame it on Ugandans; many times Ugandans don’t appreciate quality and standards. Majority Ugandans seem to be taken by price and quantity.
Producing quality bottled water is an expensive venture. A cap of mineral water bottle costs Ugx. 30, a bottle itself costs Ugx 40, while sales and marketing accounts for more than six percent, distribution accounts for 25 percent, power bills and Salaries. And the cost of the water put into the bottle itself. Put together, you see the costs going the wrong way. Making it difficult to stay in the market with low prices.
With the average market price of Ugx. 12,000 per carton of bottled water, the numbers for some mineral brands don’t seem to add up, unless there is foul play (using untreated water from streams and rivers, etc.) somewhere along the production chain or dodging taxes, stealing power etc.
If one is to survive in this competitive market with such low prices and low sales, they must sell more than 10,000 cartoons a month. Unfortunately, many of the players hardly dream of selling such numbers. There are about three companies which can afford to sell such numbers.
To survive in this market, sources who are familiar with the industry say, some players are said to be bending the quality control rules so as to survive at the cost of the customer’s safety.
Other survival tactics
Rwenzori Mineral Water recently launched another variety of mineral water,-Premium Mineral water. A 300 ml bottle sells at Ugx. 2000. This water is said to go through 12 stages, while the ordinary Rwenzori mineral water goes through six stages and 300ml sells at Ugx. 1,000.
Analysts see this as a marketing strategy that seeks to segment the market. Already, there is a general feeling in the market that Rwenzori is the safest mineral water brand on the water.
Rihamu moves in the villages
Like they did to soda, Rihamu water manufactured by Hariss International, have opted for low price as a penetration strategy. The people who were initially buying ‘boiled’ water in Kavera are now taking Rihamu water, because it is cheap. Her distribution is said to be very effective and Rihamu Water is available across the country.
Rihamu seems to be on the mission of encircling the big players. Already, they have taken over the villages and the low end. Overall, the brand is slowly being accepted. It is highly anticipated that after the brand has been fully accepted, management will improve on quality, packaging and then take on the big boys head on.
Their strategy can be compared to cutting off the streams and small rivers that supply a major river. Over time, the river will reduce water levels and finally dry up. The big boys in Mineral water market must watch out.
More about the Author: Moses kaketo