Meta Abo Brewery, a Diageo company, completed the expansion of its non-alcoholic beverage factory that produces the first Malta Guinness packed in plastic bottles for 14 million dollars.
The new plant, located on the premises of the factory in Sebeta, 20Km outside of the capital city, has a capacity to produce 32,000 bottles an hour. The construction of the plant took a year and created jobs for 270 people. The new product joined the market in early January with 330ml plastic bottles in six and 12 packs.
The company, which formerly bottled only non-alcoholic beverages in glass containers, introduced the new plastic bottles to increase their reach and for ease of use, according to Sisay Zerihun, corporate relations director of Diageo, which introduced a malt drink to the Ethiopian market in 2013.
Krones, a German company, was the contractor for the project where it installed its own brand of machinery imported from Germany.
"We have a plan to export our products to other East African countries," said Sisay.
The company has a strong commitment to addressing plastic bottle usage issues, and currently it is recycling plastic bottles, according to Sisay.
Meta Abo Brewery hired 26 youth to collect plastic bottles for recycling. It also invited PETCO, a South Africa-based NGO, to help coordinate their recycling efforts and provide training that creates awareness of the risks associated with plastic bottle usage.
The price of the new plastic product is 20 Br, three Br more than the product sold in glass bottles.
"We use dark plastic bottles to protect the drink from direct exposure to sunlight," said Darcha Mekonnen, innovation brand manager of the company.
The company sources its barley to produce the non-alcoholic drink from 6,400 farmers. Barley is cultivated on close to one million hectares of land in Ethiopia with an output of 20.5 million quintals a year.
Ethiopia has five local and international beer companies that produce 14.5 million hectolitres a year and 23 companies that manufacture liquor.
The government previously owned Meta Abo Brewery, which was established in 1967. In 2012, Diageo acquired the Brewery for 225 million dollars and invested 119 million dollars in its expansion. Diageo, a global company, operates in more than 180 countries with brands that include Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, J&B, Buchanan's, Smirnoff and Guinness.
Arbo Feyisa, a lecturer at Haramaya University's School of Natural Resources Management & Environmental Sciences, applauds the company's initiative to recycle plastic products to minimise environmental pollution and create job opportunities.
Other companies who engage in the area also should take a lesson from such initiatives, according to Arbo.
"Even though the government is concerned about environmental pollution, not enough emphasis is given to the issue," Arbo said.
He also recommends a stringent follow-up process from the government to make sure that companies are recycling the products as they vowed.