September 17 (SeeNews) - Kamenitza, the Bulgarian unit of the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, plans to invest 15 million euro ($22.1 million) by the end of 2009 to secure its steady growth, Kamenitza’s general manager Dragan Radivoevich said.
“The beer market in Bulgaria is very competitive due to the small distance dividing the top three producers, all of them parts of international companies. […] Therefore the business environment features a constant fight for increasing the market share and that’s why it needs investments,” Radivoevich told SeeNews in an interview.
The bulk of the planned investment, or 12.5 million euro, will go for a new bottling line in Kamenitza's Astika brewery with a capacity of 50,000 bottles per hour, the biggest in Bulgaria.
Kamenitza produces lager, dark and non-alcoholic beers under the namesake brand. Its product portfolio also includes Astika, Burgasko, Pleven, Slavena, Beck’s, Staropramen, Stella Artois, Beck’s Green Lemon, Belle Vue, Duvel, Hoegaarden and Leffe brands.
Kamenitza ranks the second largest in Bulgaria with a market share of 27%. The Kamenitza beer is a leading national brand with a 18% market share, Radivoevich said.
The company faces competition from Zagorka, part of Dutch brewing group Heineken, and Danish group Carlsberg.
Kamenitza produced 1.5 million hectolitres of beer last year out of the combined output of 5.373 million hectolitres of the eight members of the Union of Brewers in Bulgaria.
The company would focus on the biggest and most successful brands when it comes to expansion, said Radivoevich.
“A consumer prefers to drink the beer he knows, the one he is used to, as a whole he prefers local brands. It would take sizable investment to create a distinguished brand from an imported product. That’s why we are focusing on our local production and operations,” he said. Kamenitza exports to markets with a significant Bulgarian diaspora like Cyprus, the U.S., Greece, Turkey and Macedonia.
“We will keep up with investments in our brands, will focus on optimising our operations and cost management to ensure their effectiveness,” said Radivoevich, referring to the company's long-term plans.
Kamenitza operates two breweries – one in the city of Plovdiv, where it produces the Kamenitza brand, and Astika, in the town of Haskovo, where it produces the Astika, Slavena, Burgasko, Staropramen, Beck’s and Stella Artois brands. The Astika brewery has an installed capacity of over one million hectolitres a year and a malt production unit with a capacity of 12,500 tonnes a year.
Kamenitza has invested over 134 million levs ($101 million/68.5 million euro) in equipment since 1997, including 15.1 million levs in 2008. Most of the investment was channeled into the company's Plovdiv-based brewery which has an output capacity of almost one million hectolitres per year.
(1 euro = 1.95583 Bulgarian levs)