Dego Baeza is a man on a mission; the mission of bringing wine to the Kenyan masses.
As it turns out, the expansion of the Kenyan middle class combined with its appetite for a Western lifestyle, could soon turn Diego’s wine mission into a fait accompli.
“People have more and more disposable income” says Baeza, “they can spend more and are on the lookout for new trends. Increasingly people shy away from sticking to things they have done in the past and are excited to try something new.”
As Concha Y Toro Regional Sales Director for Africa & Middle East, Baeza knows a thing or two about wine and about what it will take to turn Kenyan wine amateurs into wine connoisseurs. According to him, right now the Kenyan alcohol consumption is made up of 60 percent of beer, 20 percent of spirits, 15 percent of local brew and 4-5 percent of wine. While the taste for wine is still low (about four litres of wine per capita per year in Kenya versus 50 litres in France for example), a new trend in catching on, he says. Over the last five years Concha y Tora (CyT) has registered a 10 percent growth in wine sales. The market is expanding and CyT is paying attention.
“When most people start drinking wine, their palate searches for flavours they can associate with and what can most people associate with at first? Sweetness,” he explains.
“That’s why for lots of people in Africa, where wine culture is still growing, they enjoy sweet wines.”
The success of CYT here in Kenya, as seen during the Nairobi Restaurant Week, is due to the company’s strong focus on expansion and the ability to position itself globally as a brand. Of course, Baeza insists, having a reliable distributor like Viva Global helps tremendously.
“When it comes to Chilean wine we have 70 percent market share in this region. That means for every ten bottles of Chilean wine you see seven of the bottles will be CyT brand.”
The popularity of Chilean wines in general can be linked to the country’s wine valleys’ Mediterranean climate. With its hot days and cool nights, the area lends itself perfectly to wine production. CyT controls every step of the winemaking process, allowing the company to attain consistency in terms of production capabilities and taste and consistency in terms of brand building. CyT star brands like Don Melchor, Marques de Casa Concha, Frontera and Casillero de Diablo are all-available here in Kenya.
Diego is confident that winning Kenyan’s over to wine is simply a matter of time. Kenyans are open minded, adventurous and love good stuff so there is a big chance that their taste for wine will develop and the demand for it will skyrocket.
“[Wine] is very appealing and attractive. It seems very sophisticated, elegant and glamorous so you really have this desire to learn more about it,” he says. “Wine is about constantly experiencing and learning […] Nobody can tell you that a wine is good or bad, it is very personal.”