Life Continental Beer: More Than an Eastern Legacy – Uche Unigwe
The Nigeria Breweries Narrative So Far…
Having conquered the beer market in Nigeria, the country’s foremost and largest brewing company, Nigerian Breweries Plc, makers of Life Continental Beer, has recorded tremendous success through its impressive footprint across Nigeria today, endearing its products to the heart of Nigerians nationwide.
With a remarkable and intriguing history in the highly competitive Nigerian alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks market, the Number One brewer, no doubt has scaled a myriad of challenges to emerge and maintain leadership of the market. The various alcoholic and non-alcoholic brands from the stables of Nigerian Breweries are leaders and major players in their various categories.
From Star lager to Gulder, Goldberg, Star Lite, Heineken, Star Radler, Legend Extra Stout; Amstel Malta, Maltina, Fayrouz, Climax, Malta Gold, Ace Passion, Desperados and Life Continental Lager, the Brewery has established a niche of producing high quality and deeply satisfying products. Little wonder why their brands are preferred in the market. The company today has nine breweries that operate daily with distributors, and sales depots across the country which helps them meet the demands of consumers in and outside Nigeria. At every touchpoint, there are professional sales representatives on the frontlines who work to reach all these points of consumption.
Nigerian Breweries’ Winning Strategy – Exceptional Leadership
The tale of Nigerian Breweries’ many successes would barely have been told if its only strategy was the production of great beer products. As with other success stories, Nigerian Breweries’ feats have been birthed through a team of resilient, experienced, innovative, cross-cultural and visionary professionals who do not rest on their oars in the pursuit of excellence. One of such visionary and thoroughbred professionals is its Sales Director, Uche Unigwe.
Since he assumed the role of the Sales Director of Nigerian Breweries in January 2018, Uche Unigwe has through his exemplary leadership spearheaded the exponential sales growth of the company’s products particularly, the Life Beer brand in Nigeria which is focused in South-East Nigeria. An experienced leader with an analytical mind and excellent business insight, Unigwe has years of experience in commercial leadership and managing diverse international markets, cultures and teams.
Unigwe joined Nigerian Breweries Plc. in 1989 after bagging a Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Chemistry from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. An exemplary leader of Igbo roots, Unigwe has always looked out for opportunities to drive home the narrative of the need to celebrate indigenous brands, especially those that originated from the East and Life Beer was an opportunity he seized to inspire the younger generation to bring back the glory.
“I knew Life Continental Beer growing up. Life Continental Beer was one of the beer brands that were birthed in Nigeria which gained significant relevance first in Onitsha. At that point, it was not a stand out brand in the beer market because it was a local beer. However, along the line, the brand began to pull weight as ownership changed hands to Nigerian Breweries Plc. Leveraging the super-efficient technical know-how of the company, Life Continental Beer was refined, reformulated, and ‘premiumized’ from the local brand that it was, to a mainstream brand that appeals to the majority of the Igbos.”
Celebrating the brand’s success thus far, he noted that: “that journey has proven quite successful that within a few years of being considered a local brand, it became the biggest lager brand in this country. It is a remarkable journey and it is not surprising that several campaigns have been designed to announce Life Beer’s leadership position.”
Life Continental Beer – The ‘Mmanya Oganiru’ of Igboland
From its humble beginnings in Onitsha in 1983, Life Lager has grown to become a dominant beer brand in the country, while maintaining a unique cultural identity that broadly resonates with its devout consumers. Revered for its unique cultural identity, Life Lager was in mid-2021, conferred a distinct title, ‘Mmanya Oganiru’ of Igboland (meaning beer for progress), by traditional rulers across the South-Eastern States in a ceremony that held at Nri Town Hall, Anambra State.
According to Unigwe, “the title of ‘Mmanya Oganiru’ of Igboland is a recognition of the effort and support that Life Beer has shown to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Igbos. The title ‘Mmanya Oganiru’ is a validation of our brand purpose which is ‘Progress’ and an indication that all our efforts and commitment towards the progress of the Igbo community and Nigeria, in general, has not gone unnoticed by the people. And that is why first-class traditional rulers in Igboland came together to crown Life Beer ‘Mmanya Oganiru’ of Igboland.”
Life Continental beer as a brand has elevated itself in the beer market by pushing past its contribution to the bar culture to create a legacy of sustainable development projects. The beer brand has also through its progress booster initiative empowered small-scale business owners across the South-Eastern States.
Unigwe explains that the volume of entrepreneurship support that Life Continental Beer has given to the Igbos in recent times have been huge, which further buttresses the fact that the beer brand is deserving of the accolades it has gotten.
“Life Beer has been supporting the Igbo people through various channels; one of which is the Progress Booster. For years, Life Beer has given a significant amount of financial support to the Igbos – we have given out monetary donations to aspiring entrepreneurs as support for their business ventures, ranging from an average of N300,000 to thousands of entrepreneurs and this does not include the money spent on local sponsorships of community events and festivals in the East. Life Beer has always thrown its weight behind all cultural festivals emanating from the East and won’t stop now. We also gave financial support to Igbo artists/musicians and gave them the needed leverage for success. We have also signed prominent Igbo music artists as ambassadors of Life Beer,” he noted.
Bringing Home The Glory – ‘Turu Ugo Lota’
Life Continental Lager has gone from being a regional beer brand to becoming one of the biggest beer brands in Nigeria, while still unapologetically displaying its Igbo roots. Over the years, the brand has actively promoted a tradition of sharing a heritage of progress, with the core brand belief that “life is better when shared, and when life is shared, there is progress”.
Building on this premise, the beer brand launched an Igbo-centric commercial campaign tagged ‘Turu Ugo Lota’, an Igbo adage that encourages sons and daughters of the soil to go out, succeed and ‘Bring Home The Glory’. The campaign featured the father-son combo of Nigerian legendary actor, Pete Edochie and his industrious son, Yul Edochie who is also an actor. Major highlights of the commercial include the showcase of iconic locations in the South-East such as the Niger Bridge, to emphasize the rewards of true labour.
The Life Continental Beer brand identified that for the Easterners, it is one thing to be wealthy and an entirely different thing to be progressive, and for them, true progress is the ability to achieve prosperity both individually and collectively against all odds. This is one of the major cultural objectives of the Igbos, and that is why the ‘Turu Ugo Lota’ campaign deeply resonates with them.
“Within the East and wherever the Igbo man resides today, ‘Turu Ugo Lota’ has been a slogan; it has become the trending language among Igbo people. When they go congregate in the bars or occasions, they no longer say “give me Life Continental Beer”, they say “give me progress”. This is because Life Beer is now synonymous with progress. The impact of a campaign can best be measured by the communal connection among people. This campaign has now become a way of life and philosophical relevance amongst the Igbo people. They are aware that there is value in going out there to hustle, conquer and come back home to celebrate. Life Continental Beer recognizes progress and has tapped into that progressive nature of the Igbos – an industrious people who are never in doubt of their heritage and progressive instinct.” Unigwe enthused.
Nigeria Breweries’ Sale Success with Uche Unigwe
A quintessential leader, Pan-African business executive, and a visionary solution provider, Uche Unigwe has year on year channeled his professionalism into his craft and this has helped birth the sales volume success and market leadership that Nigeria Breweries currently enjoys.
Unigwe joined Nigerian Breweries in 1989 as a Brewer. He served in that position till July 2000 when he was appointed Sales Manager-In-Training which served as a foundation builder for his journey into becoming not just a sales expert but also an industry giant. His industriousness did not go unnoticed as in no time, he was made Regional Account Manager in Dec 2001, and that set the pace for his rapid career growth.
Unigwe has since gone on to hold leadership positions as Head of Sales, Regional Business Manager, National Trade Marketing Manager, Commercial Project Manager, CRM Development Manager, Country Manager, and General Manager in Nigeria, Amsterdam, the UK, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone. He is currently the company’s Sales Director recording landmark successes since he assumed office about four years ago.
Attributing his successes to team effort, accountability and professionalism, Unigwe acknowledged that he wouldn’t have achieved this much success without the active collaboration of innovative minds and self-driven leaders.
“I am very happy to say that Nigerian Breweries is blessed with a great team. Over the years, we have nurtured innovative minds, as well as motivated and empowered these industry shakers. Today, we have senior regional sales managers that make important decisions, manage their budgets and take full responsibility for their regions.”
“We have been able to integrate these great minds as commercial business leaders and they are delivering in their respective regions. As long as we continue to empower and offer necessary support to the regional leadership teams, greater success lies in wait. This model of sales management has increased the volumes of sales across the different regions. On several occasions, we have completely sold out our capacity such that we ran out of stock. Their success stories are very heart-warming and I am so proud of my team. We also propagate our sales team and the result is that most of them are outside the shores of Nigeria continuing the great work of building and marketing great brands. There is also great collaborations between the Sales, Marketing and Trade Marketing departments. There is a seamless working relationship between all departments in Nigerian Breweries and this has yielded innovative products that sol
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