Ever since coming to Ethiopia, Heineken has been prone to making splashes in the beer market. First, they purchased two national breweries: Bedele and Harar. In 2015, they launched their Walia brand with great success, shaking up the competition through a strategic pricing strategy that helped them increase market share. Now, the company has launched its signature Heineken brand in the local market, which is produced in their state-of-the-art brewery in Kilinto, which cost more than EUR200 million to build and expand.
At the helm of Heineken’s Ethiopia office is Gerrit van Loo, a man with nearly three decades of experience with the company. After studying law and economics in the Netherlands, he enlisted in the Dutch navy before starting his first job as a management trainee at Heineken’s headquarters in Amsterdam. Since then, he’s worked throughout Europe and Africa in marketing and sales before becoming a manager.
Van Loo says Africa is brimming with potential – and Ethiopia is no exception. Since arriving in 2015, he’s accomplished quite a bit – the Klinto expansion, launching the flagship Heineken brand, and helping develop Ethiopia’s agriculture value chain. EBR’s Tinbete Ermyas spoke with van Loo to learn more about their work in Ethiopia, including their environmental protection efforts, developing local talent, and the unique challenges he’s faced working in the local context. The following is an excerpt.