The idea to write this article came from the fact that its weekend already and I know many people cant just wait for closure of work to pop into their neighborhood bar and grab their favorite alcoholic beverage which got me thinking about a particular brand that is quite new but spreading like a California wild fire.
The first time I heard of the beer
Hero they call it. The first time I heard of the beer called Hero was in Awka Anambra State, South East Nigeria, in November 2013. Id just come in from Lagos for a friends weeding happening that coming weekend. He took me to a bar behind his office where he said his Alobam (buddies) were making plans for his d-day. On getting there I noticed the green bottle sitting atop the table and in front of each individual was not Star, Harp, Heineken, Goldberg, Kronenberg, Three three, Dubic or any other green bottled alcoholic beverage Id come in contact with before. This was something different, to me it didnt look like much, but watching the respect with which they touched the bottle onto their lips, the relish in their eyes, I knew this was no ordinary beer for the excitement it elicited was alien to me.
The label design was simple; green, red and gold themed, reminded me of what Star used to look like 10 years ago. But there was something else about it, a rising sun at its center. The taste, well not like any other premium lager Id tasted, it was new and not what I was already used to.
How people react to the name Hero when its mentioned
Hero! Ordinary the mention of it sends excitement to those present, and then discussions ensue on how it tastes, if its better than other beer brands or not, talks that seem to trump any other discussion and reasons for that gathering. I was marveled by it.
How people react when Hero is absent at their favorite bar
Before writing this piece, Id asked around about this beer brand and one of people I met said that on one occasion he was at a bar drinking his favorite brand at that time which wasnt Hero of course and some men drove by, stopped and demanded that the shop owner serve them Hero. The shop owner didnt have it in stock and told the men so. It didnt go down well with all of them as they exclaimed No Hero? Mbanu, Mbanu, No, No! No! while getting back into their cars and driving off in search of another bar with the beer amidst shaking of heads. What kind beer brand could command such loyalty he had asked the shop owner. After that day, he went with Hero and hasnt gone back ever since.
Its first major appearance
Jagal Nigeria Limited successfully completed the construction of SABMiller Plc’s first beer brewery with annual capacity of 500,000 hectoliters in Nigeria at Onitsha, Anambra State. A project awarded in March 2011 and was completed within 18 months. This commissioning was marked by the product launch of Hero Lager, which was the new brewery’s first brand. But then that was not when the people got to know of it, another person I’d asked about this said its first major appearance was at the burial ceremony of Odumegwu Ojukwu of which the only lager brand present was Hero. After that day, it was said the beer took a center spot in the heart of the people while giving them continuous joy and happiness.
When I first heard the name Ooh Mpa, I asked what it meant, and everybody present looked at me like a JJC (foreigner) exclaiming so you dont know? I really felt embarrassed. Another name Ive heard people call the beer is Heroshima Mmanyam and Ojukwu, after the late General Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu.
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In January this year, The Nigerian Voice published an article titled; NB Plc votes N500m to halt sales of SABMillers Hero lager. According to the article, Nigeria Breweries Plc reportedly budgeted a whooping sum of N500m to halt the sales of Hero product from a rival brewery by distributing incentives to proprietors of retail shops in the Southeast not sell the competitor’s product. I was said that NB Plc allocated the said amount to take care of an alleged 12 cartons of Star Lager beer distributed monthly to retailers who abided by their agreement not to sell Hero lager beer, which is widely patronized in the Southeast region since its debut into the Nigerian market in August 2013 when President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned the company’s first “Greenfield” brewery located in Onitsha, Anambra state. The most affected is the Star and Harp brand, as their sales rate is and has continued to dwindled because of the increasing patronage enjoyed by Hero beer.
In August 2012, Saharareporters published an article about a conflict of interest following allegations linking the governor, Peter Obi, to a stake in the brewery.
How fast it is spreading
Two people close to me have confirmed that the beer brand is present in Port Harcourt, Zamfara and Zaria. Just two days ago I was surprised to find out that Ooh Mpa is already in Lagos bars. One of them particularly said; If Ooh Mpa can get to Zamfara, it can get anywhere. And indeed the beer is everywhere, an article on Bloomberg clearly talks about how the people of the South Eastern part of Nigeria are happy that they finally have a beer they can call their own.
A piece on Nairaland, Nigerias number one information portal names Hero The fastest selling beer unarguably in Nigeria. Another article on Elomblah calls it the best gift former Governor Peter Obi gave the people of the Anambra State. In Januray SABMiller Plc invested $110 million (N1.76 billion) expanding Heros production capacity in Nigeria, in the brewer’s latest move to capitalize on Africa’s growing thirst for beer.
The passion and love
Oh Mpa means “Oh Father” in Igbo, the language of the area, and is widely regarded as referring to the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, who led a failed attempt to secede from Nigeria in the 1960s and set up an independent nation of Biafra that sparked a 30-month civil war. With its Hero bottles bearing the rising sun that appeared on the Biafran flag, SABMiller is tapping into the area’s nationalism. Excerpt from this article
SABMiller tapping into the peoples culture is a very move because culture eats the best strategies for breakfast, launch and dinner. One person I asked about this said he was at a friends grand dads burial ceremony, and at time his friends dad burst into tears shaking his head and saying ; ooh mpa, ohh mpa, chai chai. He made mention that the burial was a celebration of life for the deceased aged well. That nostalgia was the reason for the mans.
What it means for the people
The people are happy, excited and have a burning flare in them all because of this beer. A man interviewed by Bloomberg when asked how he felt about the beer exclaimed, “We needed a beer brand that we could trust, that we could call our own, this is ours; ours is ours!”. The company presently employs between two to three hundred people, and so that reduces the number of jobless Nigerians and increases the number of homes in which food is guaranteed everyday. More development will continue to spring up around the location of this beer factory with more infrastructure being built.
No event in the South Eastern region if Nigeria is complete without Ooh mpa, bars will be scantily patronized if the peoples beer is absent. Theres happiness, excitement, development, if you ask me its a win-win for the people.
Image Credit: Bloomberg