|Tuesday, 4 June 2002|
Ceylon Brewery will never compromise qualities - Director CEO
In an era of change which saw the industrial revolution, Two World Wars and many scientific innovations, among the few things that withstood all change was the taste of beer produced by the Ceylon Brewery Ltd.
"We have compromised for a new factory and many other aspects, but certainly not for quality," said Director/CEO of Ceylon Breweries, Suresh Shah.
The birth of the Ceylon Breweries was related to the then local plantation sector. Surrounded by broad acres of tea plantations, the Scottish tea planters of the 1800s lived in the hill town of Nuwara Eliya. These planters after a hard day's work missed a basic luxury, the temptation of a tall glass of good beer to help while away the chilly evenings.
This important oversight was, however, rectified, when Sir Samuel Baker set up Sri Lanka's beer manufacturing plant, the Ceylon Brewery, in 1849 at the foothills of one of Nuwara Eliya's famous waterfalls, the Lovers Leap.
How ever Mr. Baker would never have imagined that his pioneering venture would expand to the extent of finding its way back to his home country, the United Kingdom, more than a century later.
The company grew with time, its product appealing to both Scottish as well as native palates. In 1884 Ceylon Brewery was acquired by Murree Brewery of Punjab, India and in 1911 the company started operating as a limited liability company, the Ceylon Brewery Ltd. The year 1921 saw extensive rebuilding of the existing brewery with the establishment of several new producing plants.
The Company opened an office in Colombo in 1948 and were the pioneers to introduce the Canned beer to Sri Lanka in 1950 but withdrew the product due to lack of demand. "We still do not see a market for canned beer products."
The Ceylon Brewery celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1961 and one significant factor in the celebrations was the introduction of 'Jubilee Ale'. Three years later the factory gave emphasis to Sri Lankan staff and the first Ceylonese brewer was hired.
The company went on to produce other brands and brewed Skol in 1984 and introduced 'Guinness' in 1995.
The last decade was very significant to the company as they went into a partnership with Carlsberg of Malaysia in 1993 to brew Carlsberg. It took up a stake of 8% with in the company. This alliance also saw one of Sri Lanka's most up-to-date and state-of-the-art factories being born at Kaduwela at a cost of 27 million US dollars. CBL came up with 50% while Carlsberg International and other borrowers contributed to raise funds to build up this complex.
The factory complex is completely automated and computerised from the moment a container enters the complex with raw material. "We have 130 computers at our complex which are operated on a 24-hour basis and therefore hardly any thing goes wrong during the production and bottling process," he said. "We produce around 30 million litres per annum and had the capacity to double that amount as and when needed."
The Company has also obtained the prestigious ISO 9002 certification for the Brewery at Biyagama.
In 1996 the incorporation of Lion Brewery was witnessed and their export markets expanded to USA, UK, France, Japan Germany and the Maldives.
Mr. Shah said that the duty reduction in 1995 was the prime reason for them to put up the new factory at Biyagama as there was a 75% increase in demand for beer. "But when the duty on beer went up again we found that it was not feasible to operate two factories as the Biyagama factory has the capacity to meet the demand," he said.
Asked if there were plans to go back to the Nuwara Eliya factory which was closed since July 2001, he answered in the negative. "Most of the machinery has been sold while some equipment has been brought to Biyagama and we do not see a future for the beer industry in the Nuwara Eliya factory," he said
Airing his views on the ban on tobacco and liquor advertising which was effective some time ago he said that there was no law governing this. "Some of the Government institutions had self-imposed rules and we had to adjust to it."
He said that the power crisis and the economic downturn in the last few years too had a negative effect on them. "Last year we had a volume reduction of 12% to 13%."
Commenting on the North East factor he said that if the A9 road is opened there would be movement of their products in a big way. "Our industry is related to the entertainment sector and if there is permeant peace our industry could do better."
The well-known brands of the company are Lion Lager, Lion Strong and Lion Strong.
Produced by Lake House