Kenya's thirst for more whiskey


“We’re seeing the emergence of a middle class in Kenya and people with a lot more disposable income, who are looking for new experiences,” East African Breweries Limited (EABL) group strategy director James Pennefather told CNBC Africa.

“If you just look around Nairobi, you see a lot of new bars and hotels, places like the Kempinski, the Tribe, the Sankara. At the same time, whiskey producers like East African breweries are investing a lot of money as well to show people how to drink whisky and different ways to enjoy it.”

Over the past year, there has been a 73 per cent increase in the amount of whiskey exported into Kenya. Between 2010 and 2011, official exports of Scotch whiskey also rose by nearly three quarters.


Due to the increasing demand, EABL launched the Love Whiskey festival, which will run throughout November, where whiskey tasting and information about various whiskey blends will be presented.

While EABL is the leading alcohol supplier in East Africa, Pennefather explains that responsible drinking promotion an important part of the group.

“East African Breweries, which is the leading alcohol supplier in Kenya and East Africa, we take responsible drinking very seriously. As part of the Love Whiskey festival, we are giving people tips on how to drink responsibly,” he explained.

The Kenyan alcohol industry has also witnessed a significant change in market share, with a number of international players coming into the Kenyan space. Local players are however holding their own.

“We certainly welcome competition. We think it’s a great thing for the industry because it’s bringing more interest and excitement into the beer and the spirits category,” said Pennefather.

Recently, EABL introduced an alcohol-flavoured product called Snap, which is targeted towards Kenyan women. Previously EABL did not have enough products marketed towards female drinkers in the country. 

“Pretty much across the globe, you find that alcohol consumption among women is lower than [it is] among men, but it’s particularly so in East Africa and Kenya,” said Pennefather.

“We are seeing an increased penetration across the board. Women become more enfranchised and we’ve now got a number of women on the EABL board.”