EABL Refutes Allegations of Running Smear Campaign Against KO Maker African Originals

March 26, 2024

The East African Breweries Limited (EABL) has distanced itself from claims of engaging in a smear campaign against African Originals.

African Originals, a Nairobi-based start-up known for producing the popular ‘Kenyan Originals’ range of ciders, gins, and iced teas, alleged that the Diageo subsidiary was responsible for the regulatory hurdles it has been encountering.

Additionally, the ‘KO’ maker accused EABL of replicating some of its products and backing social media smear campaigns by influencers who purportedly experienced health issues after consuming African Originals’ products.

In a letter addressed to EABL, the company accused the market giant of enlisting Wowzi, a Nairobi-based digital marketing company with ties to top influencers, to conduct an online campaign aimed at defaming KO through strategic tweets.

EABL is alleged to have also enlisted the services of the same digital firm, which specializes in ‘macro-influencers,’ to lend ‘authenticity’ to other campaigns.

“We are ready and willing to compete with EABL on merit through the quality and prices of our products but we are not prepared to suffer serious commercial harm as a result of their smear campaign,” African Originals chairman Henry Rudd wrote in the letter to Diageo’s general counsel in London.

EABL, the largest brewer in the region, introduced a competing line of fruit ciders in December last year, which African Originals described as a “direct copy” of its products.

Furthermore, it accused EABL staff of maligning African Originals products and incentivizing supermarket staff not to display its products.

EABL Statement

However, EABL dismissed the claims as unsubstantiated on Monday, March 25, stating in a press release that the allegations are “false, defamatory, and lack any evidence.”

“We do not condone such behaviour within our business by any of our third-party partners or employees. Our commitment to ethical business practices and fair competition remains unwavering and is enshrined in our clear internal policies about how we engage our partners -including influencers – who must follow and/or be in line with any local laws,” EABL said.

The brewer stated that it has no involvement in African Originals’ “quality issues” and asked the KO maker to retract their allegations.

“EABL will vigorously defend its position and take all necessary steps to protect its reputation and the trust of our customers, consumers, and all other stakeholders,” said the brewer.

This isn’t the first instance of EABL facing allegations of employing unethical business tactics against its competitors.

In the 1990s, EABL engaged in a fierce turf war with the South African brand Castle Brewery, resulting in the closure of the latter’s multi-million-dollar factory in Thika in 2002, leading to the loss of 800 jobs.

Similarly, in 2019, EABL became embroiled in a bottle dispute with Keroche Breweries, with the latter accusing EABL of employing unethical tactics to solidify its monopoly in the country’s brewing industry.

EABL faced the Senate in 2020, where it denied the allegations.

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