Ethiopia - Ambo water to fizz globally
By Solomon Bekele
Following the hand over of Ambo Mineral Water in Ethiopia, the new management invested close to 21 million dollars for new machinery, refurbishment of old bottling lines and civil works, Capital learnt. “We are 67 percent share holders of the 300 million 607 thousand birr share capital. The government takes the 33 percent share,” said Johann Krigge, the managing Director of Ambo Mineral Water Share Company in a brief interview with Capital on Wednesday. The 67 percent shareholder is Ambo International Holdings Ltd (AIH Ltd.). The transfer took place in December 2008. But to start the process representing AIHPlc, the Director came earlier.
He added: “We invested about 21 million dollars literally to bring a new plant in seven or so months. The factory will be absolutely changed when the new equipment starts producing two to three months from now.” The 21 million dollars includes buying new equipment and refurbishing the business. “We produced 14,000 bottles per hour previously. When the new machineries start we will produce 24,000 bottles per hour. We have now introduced new bottles with blue crates in Addis Ababa and old bottles with yellow crates outside Addis Ababa. The cork which is made in Ethiopia is used for both Addis Ababa and outside Addis Ababa. We have also introduced a smaller size bottle for the export. We did that simply because it is convenient for packing,” the Managing Director remarked. The smaller and bigger bottles that were introduced by the previous management were discontinued. The new management expects a profit when the factory begins to operate with full potential. For now, he said, the company is in the stage of heavy investment and preparation.
Capital has learnt that the company managed to export less than one percent of the total product to different countries such as the U.S.A., Australia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti. The Managing Director further said that they decided to send Ambo to Washington D.C., because there are very many Ethiopians who know the product there. The new management hopes to expand exports as much as possible to different countries. “This is a unique product one finds it only in Ambo. Until people are accustomed use, it may take some time. But once people drink it there is a huge demand,” he said.
Johann Krigge said that Ambo Mineral Water’s geological formation, good mix of mineral content and pure sparkling natural taste is one of its kind in the world. He said that this is a unique experience for him. He has been engaged in different beverage industries in countries such as Switzerland and China. But this one is the exception, he reiterated.
The source of Ambo Mineral Water is found in the rocky hills, deep ravines, craggy terrain and beautiful green landscape of Ambo 130km away from Addis Ababa.
History has documented that the foundation of Ambo Mineral Water goes back to 1923. The main reason behind the selection of the place by the Imperial Government of Ethiopia was not only because of its beautiful climate but also due to the presence of the thermo-mineral springs.
Based on the information from the documents, Ambo therapeutic spring water was bottled and secretly sent to the palace. “The secret was however, revealed when the water was publicly tabled to ambassadors and dignitaries who came to celebrate the coronation day of Emperor Haile Sellasie 80 years ago, in 1930,” the document writes. In a rare natural gift the mineral water flowed directly from the source to the plant. “The water has its own natural carbonation. We will try to produce it in the future with less carbonation. So that people will want to drink it all the time, not only after taking heavy food; when the new plant is fully operational,” commented Johann Krigge.
Over 50 percent of Ambo product is sold in Addis Ababa, the management told Capital.
The Director expressed confidence when he was asked about the competition that possibly comes from the newly emerging water producing companies. “Ambo water is a unique sparkling water. There is no other competing company that produces this kind of product. We are trying to expand it with full confidence believing that it is the only choice of its kind for our customers,” he explained. The biggest mineral water bottling and distributing company in the country, Ambo Mineral Water Plant was owned by the government starting from 1963 until it was handed over to the new management in December 2008 as a joint venture with the government.