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Opinions of Monday, 10 September 2018

Columnist: Anonymous Returnee

The taste of home: Learnings from the Ghanaian beer market

The Anonymous returnee The Anonymous returnee

There is an old African proverb that goes“No matter how far you are from your house, you will keep walking till you arrive home.”

And I am a long way from home. Six thousand, six hundred and ninety-eight kilometers to be exact, in the heart of Germany.

In these last twenty years outside the Motherland, beer has become the link between me and my memories of home. Every time I take a sip, my mind goes back to Accra in the 90’s.

Memories of Home

Back then, nightlife in Ghana had suddenly come alive after nearly collapsing in the days of the revolutions. There was a rise in the middle-class, and with it came a new craze of hanging out at drinking spots, where friends shared good beer and good music. In those days, Star beer was the go- to brew. The brand reminded you of the country’s own ‘Black Star’ identity, and it commanded a majority of the market. Since then, there has been a steady rise in competition from other brewers, but I maintain a soft spot for the beer that helped me and my friends “experience the brightness” for so many years. Star is the reason I still have so many fond memories of my last days in Accra.

It’s no surprise that since then I’ve taken such an interest in beer and beer markets around the world. Of course, I’ve been paying particular attention to the beer market in Ghana, and there are some important trends I have observed.

The Rise of Authenticity & Heritage

My favorite growing trend currently is alcoholic beverages tapping more into Ghanaian-ness, culture, and heritage. We see it in local beer brands, beer-adjacent brands like Orijin, and even local bitters and spirits etc. This ‘nationalistic’ approach to beer marketing comes at the perfect time, when the global appreciation for authenticity and originality is on the rise. The trend itself is inspiring because it teaches Ghanaians everywhere a valuable lesson: it’s time to come home.

“Coming home” could mean the Tema boy, born and raised, who now lives in Adenta but makes time to go back and explore his old neighborhood; it could mean the guy from Tamale who has found success in business, and is returning to his hometown with to help build a school; or even the Presec roommates who go to their reunion event to reconnect and help each other grow. Like the Sankofa symbol suggests, it’s time to go back, take our traditions and values, and transform them for the future. Our communities are the key to staying grounded, rooted to our culture, and connected to our homes. After all, do our elders not say “efie ne fie”?

Speaking of homes, I am Tinally returning to my own. In my preparation to come back to Ghana, I’ve been paying close attention to the most recent marketing efforts, and of course, to my own harbor of nostalgia: Star Beer. Star appears to have launched a new campaign, with a brand new TV ad that took me by surprise. Why? Because the story of the ad felt remarkably similar to my own—a returnee excited to be back home, excited to re-experience his Ghanaian-ness, and perhaps most importantly, excited to reconnect with his community and friends.

Some keen observers on social media have noticed a new bottle label in a few brief frames of the TV ad, and they are both excited and understandably curious as to what this means for Star’s future. I suspect a new label launch is upon us, maybe even with an improved taste. While such speculation may only be conspiracy theories, I hope they’re true to some extent. Meanwhile, I simply cannot wait to get back to Ghana for the chance to see my old friends, sit at our old spot, and taste our favourite beer once again…at least for old times’ sake.

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