Despite the country’s current stifling economy, one man is finding creative ways to tap into the local wine market, which is estimated to be worth over $300 million, writes Solomon Elusoji
After living in the United States for several years, Ogbonna Alozie, the Chairman of Port Elixir Limited decided to come back to his homeland to become a wine entrepreneur. It wasn’t a difficult choice to make. Over the years, he and his wife had been living in the Unites States of America and had noticed that a lot of families eat with wine.
“It’s more of a tradition,” Alozie said, during an interview at his Lagos office. “So, with that knowledge we got to know that there were different wine varietals.”
However, he also noticed that, back home, the wine drinking population was growing.
“The truth of the matter is that there is an awareness in most countries today, and Nigeria is not excluded,” he said. “When it comes to alcoholic beverages, wine is the best that you can go for. More people are switching over to wine, even in Nigeria. Now, the wine market is booming. Nigerians have come to that consciousness that if you really have to take an alcoholic drink, let it be wine.”
But, Alozie discovered, the Nigerian market was saturated with inferior wine products. “To tell you the truth,” he explained, “there are a lot of fake wines in the Nigerian market. That’s also one of the reasons why we went into this business to bring high quality wines to the market. The fake wines can sell at much lower prices than we are willing to sell. The reason being that the drink might just be five per cent wine and 95 per cent of something else. It takes a lot to make a good quality wine.
“I remember one time I had a drink in Nigeria, and I almost died. I couldn’t sleep at night. The drink kept turning my stomach. Unluckily for me, I was the only one in the hotel room that night and there was basically no one to call at that time of the night.”
The next question, however, was deciding which brand of wine to import into the country. After carefully scrutinizing their options, the Alozies decided to opt for the Elixxir brand.
“Elixxir is all about quality,” Alozie noted. “It cuts across every sphere of the wine drinking population to bring about quality, great taste and class. That’s the concept behind Elixxir wine. Elixxir boasts a unique wine experience derived from American craftsmanship, the finest grapes, superior ingredients and a distinct wine making process which takes place in the Elixxir Wine Cellars in California.
“Elixxir comes out of a production line that is more of a seventh generation wine company in Napa Valley, California. The quality of Elixxir is a lot better than what you can get from any other source from other countries. The soil where the wines come from are very rich due to the climate. These are the things that actually make for a very good wine. The processing of the grapes and all the materials that are used for the production are also top notch. The storage matters too.
“It is common knowledge that wines which have been stored for a long time actually taste better than wines that were just harvested. Most of the things we are talking about here are grapes. Wines are basically grapes that have fermented. So, the longer they are stored, the better the quality. We have a lot of customer loyalty today because of the quality and the great taste of our wines.”
Elixxir wine comes in a variety of flavours, which include: Merlot, Syrah, Pino Grigio, Moscato, Brut, Rose and Signature Rose.
In terms of reach, Alozie noted that the company currently has distributors in different states around the country. The company is still open to more distributors and partners to keep expanding its network to all parts of Africa and the world.
“One of the specific goals was to be the number one wine brand in the country, and truly we are almost there. In some specific areas where we have gotten into, we find out that we are the number one wine. In most lounges, bars, clubs, weddings and events, Elixxir wines are served.”
For Alozie, starting Port Elixir was all about the “urge to bring something that was of high quality to this country. That was what prompted my wife and I to introduce the wines into the country. The idea was actually conceived from introducing something that was better than what was already in the market. And that’s why the drink is gaining so much ground, because people drink and they taste the quality and the difference. In fact there are a few people that never used to like wine until they tasted Elixxir. Now, they can’t get enough of it. Our specific target market is the wine drinking market that is ready to go for quality drinks.”
When asked about the impact of government policies on his wine business, Alozie noted that it has been mostly positive.
“All I can say is that the government policies have been in our favour,” he said. “The government wants the best for its citizens. All Elixxir wines are NAFDAC (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control) certified. Since the wines are coming from the United States, it is already acknowledged to be of high quality.
“We know the United States has one of the highest standards for any product in the world. Before you can even go into production in the United States, there are a lot of checks that have to be done. You must go through personal background checks, and the quality and taste of the drink must pass FDA (Food and Drug Administration) standards. So, by the time it passed those tests, we knew that we would have no problems with NAFDAC. They already know that it’s a very good product, because of where it’s coming from.
“The only challenges we’ve had was clearing of goods from the port, and the exchange rate. We strongly believe that the administration is doing its best to mitigate these concerns.”
However, what keeps his business going, according to the wine entrepreneur, is integrity. “Integrity is one of the things we use to distinguish ourselves from other people,” he said. “The high quality of the Elixxir brand of wines is consistently maintained, and in addition, we honour the terms of agreement between ourselves and others. To me, integrity is actually what distinguishes businesses. If you are able to uphold your word in an agreement, come rain come sun, people will look at you as someone that is consistent and will trust you completely. So, I wish that the youths will portray that spirit of integrity in all their dealings, it’s really important.”