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Samoans are frothing mad

Samoans are not happy, and many feel that the taste of Samoa will be lost with the production of its iconic beer now moved to Fiji.

It was a fortnight ago when Paradise Beverages made the announcement that production of Vailima Beer would be moved to Fiji because it was no longer commercially viable to produce in Samoa.

The sales and distribution centre would remain and there was also loss of 50 jobs.

However locals are speaking out, feeling a great injustice has been done because the brew was synonymous with Samoa. It was an identity.

None have been more vocal in their criticism of the move than one of its shareholders, Lafaele Ngau Chun.

He told a local Samoan radio station that most shareholders were not aware of the move until it was about to be announced.

He said they need to evaluate the production equipment, given that it was never replaced, which consisted of the brewing, packing, and bottling, adding that it will cost $10 million to overhaul the production line.

Samoans are not happy, and many feel that the taste of Samoa will be lost with the production of its iconic beer now moved to Fiji. Picture: Vailima Official Twitter

He told the radio station that government intervention was needed because the beer is a Samoan icon.

“They should step in to salvage Vailima, given its a Samoan brand and that Vailima is the country’s national beer,” he said.

Many Samoans feel that the beer will lose its taste and quality.

“No island in the Pacific will make Vailima taste great again,” said Bernadette Fairholt-Schmidt, a Samoan resident.

“Vailima Breweries has been taking all the profits to Fiji and they’re now taking the taste of Samoa to be brewed in Fiji. You will never be able to brew the Vailima taste in Fiji so roll in Taula and Samoa Beverages,” said another Samoan resident Atanoa Chricton.

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Sonny Foster, a Samoan resident said it eventually came down to cost.

“It’s a great pity that the local shareholders don’t have much of a say or can’t do anything about it as current major shareholder, Coca Cola Amatil Fiji Ltd, prefers transferring to a new location to meet demands of modern manufacturing plants and equipment. It claims the current brewery plant at Vaitele is outdated and can’t compete with modern equipment of opposing local competitor Taula breweries.”

Some Samoans feel that Vailima sales in Samoa and among Samoans living abroad could falter because of the decision to move production.

Vailima will begin operations in Fiji by October, said general manager Paradise Beverages Fiji Limited, Michael Spencer.

Samoans are not happy, and many feel that the taste of Samoa will be lost with the production of its iconic beer now moved to Fiji. Picture: Vailima Official Twitter

He said the move was deemed feasible for the continuity of the company’s operations and while it’s their preference for Vailima to be brewed in Samoa, Samoa Breweries – a subsidiary of Paradise Beverages – has been operating through trading challenges for several years now due to a combination of COVID-19 and cost-related challenges.

Mr Spencer said their leadership team has explored every avenue to continue brewing in Samoa, including further investment into the aging brewery at Vaitele, working with a third party to develop a new brewery. But none of the options were commercially viable.

He sad the company has the utmost respect for the Vailima brand and wants to keep it alive by moving production to Fiji, ensuring the brand and heritage will continue to live on by using the same traditional methods and ingredients.

In the last five years, Samoa Breweries Limited has steadily declined its operations on account of factors that included aging machinery, and the impact of the 2019 measles outbreak followed by the disruption caused by COVID-19.

1 Comment
  1. Michael Francis 2 months ago
    Reply

    Brewing Beer for Samoans or their Tourists in another country namely Fiji & shipping it back as an unchanged Local Brew, seems pointless & leaves a great market open to direct challenges, as the VERY WATER used in the brewing process is different in each country. Taste will change & 50 jobs is a lot to loose in this market. Lets pull together & see if there is a local Samoan Entrepreneur/s we could partner with, to brew New Samoan Beers along side the OLDER brew lost to Fiji. We can then find new jobs for those eft behind by the closure & EXPORT GLOBALLY these BREWS including to Fiji IJI.
    $10 million upgrade is only “Corporate Speak” for a Failure to plain ahead!!
    contact me anytime at– hq@globalindustriesgroup.com –if you want to cement an arrangement to BREW yet again in Samoa.
    Cheers, Michael Francis.

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