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THERE’S an old African saying that a young wife may have more new clothes and pots but she doesn’t have more rags and broken pots than the old wife of the house. The dairy market-leader in Nigeria, Peak Milk, might not have seen the wisdom in this adage as it put sixty years experience in the dairy market aside to engage in brand wars with new entrants and everybody loves to cheer the underdog.

In a cut throat atmosphere where price fluidity can make all the difference in demand such as the Nigerian market, it is important to understand the import of what Socrates meant by “know thyself”.

Peak Milk, a product of Friesland Campina WAMCO for sixty years has been positioned as a premium brand and with that segment it rose to become the leader in the dairy market, ignoring a wide creneau, the mass-market.

With little or no option, the perception then was Peak milk and the dairy sector served the rich and only the rich.  The creneau was so large that when Cowbell Milk made an entry into the market monopolized by Peak, it didn’t position itself to competition, Peak, that would have been suicidal. Rather Cowbell Milk produced by Promasidor saw the goldmine in the mass-market and created its own monopoly with its popular 5 – 10 Naira powdered small sachets.

Initially underrated by Peak Milk, the leader looked down from its high towers arrogantly but Cowbell had won the heart of the Consumer and nailed it to the wall with its inclusive pay-off, “Cowbell, Our Milk”. The brand and its campaign was a massive hit and it became the darling and hero of the oppressed, snubbed and disregarded Consumer, Cowbell became Robin Hood.

One would think a better line of action would have been for Peak to expand its product mix and price friendly Three Crown Milk from the same maker would do the job of producing small sachet milk for the mass-market, while Peak focuses on its dominance in the premium segment. Peak rather went for the mud-fight with the underdog by producing small versions of the premium brand thereby killing the mystic aura surrounding its 60 year old “monopoly”.

Global research company, Euromonitor, claimed Promasidor had “Robin Hooded” a whopping 30% retail value sales lead between 2014 and 2015 from Peaks Empire. Friesland Campina WAMCO during this period still maintained the overall market leadership with 75% value share with Peak the leading brand while Three Crown was rated second in the market.

The report also mentioned Chi Limited as the clear leader in the yoghurt and sour milk segment with a 34% still within 2014 to 2015 period. Chi Limited saw another creneau, this time it was a gap between those who wanted quality Peak Milk could offer and price and quantity Cowbell was offering, another brand war was in the offing. With the competition reaching boiling point it was just a matter of time before the last straw would break the camel’s back.

Hollandia Evaporated Milk from the stables of Chi Limited In 2005 introduced “Pop Pour Throw pack” and threw the market open again. It unified the market with this innovation and to cap it all it introduced the “Pour Cap Keep pack” it was a re-sealable (215g) in 2007.

A.C Nielson Retail Audit Data for Q1 2016 claims Hollandia Evap Milk has consistently increased its share of the market by 7.4 market share while Peak’s market share has been on the decline by 7.9 with Hollandia Evap Milk doubled the market share of Peak in Lagos with 33.9%

Hollandia Evap Milk showed with these statistics it was not going to be an easy competition like Cowbell and with all its innovations it was obvious it was going for the coveted prize, leadership of the market.

Peak ran a television commercial, very innovative with comic acts such as AY, Sheyi Law and some other household names to salvage its leadership position. Hollandia Evap Milk did a counter ad and that was the final straw. Peak Milk accused Chi of copying the pay-off line used in its Wazobia advert and to achieve passing-off Hollandia Evap packaging was made to look like Peak while Chi counter-accused Peak of being the copycat stating its Hollandia Evap, “Na correct Wazo” pay-off line was unique and original to the brand.

The fight between dairy industry David and Goliath continues but from every indication the fall of Goliath might be imminent if it doesn’t adopt a more strategic way to engage competition. The mud fight tactics with underdogs seeking to displace it will only strengthen competition. The good thing about these brand wars is no matter who wins or who losses, at the end of the day the real winner is the Consumer.