Taula embraces overseas expansion

Less than a decade since it launched, Taula Beverages is riding a wave of enthusiasm for its beer as it expands into overseas markets. 

“It's an investment; expansion is growing, hence [us] going overseas, the demand calls for it,” said the company’s Managing Director, Taimalie Charlie Westerlund. 

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Taimalie, who is also the Chairman of the Ah Liki Investment Group, said when the company was first launched they managed to produce 100,000 cases of Taula in 2013. 

Now, they are producing more than half a million cases.

But it was not an entirely easy beginning, Taimalie said, recalling times when the company had to go back to Germany to help overcome problems in their early years. 

“We [had issues in] the first three years and we used a New Zealand and Australian brewmaster formulation and we soon learned that it does not work here; and so we reverted back to the Germans’ formulation and brought in the German brewmasters,” he said.

The company’s original beer formulation was deveoped by tweaking a traditional German brewing method, which was eventually blended with a Samoan flavour. 

“At the same time we were using the German equipment and we used formulas that worked well in Germany for years and we tweaked it to suit our part of the island,” he said. 

“I guess like anything else when you have a great product you want everyone to have a taste of it and we will start in Fiji, but we will expand to New Zealand and other parts of the world.” 

Earlier this month, Chairman of Hari Punja & Sons Pte Limited,  Hari Punja, announced a joint venture with Taula to set up a new brewery in Fiji to service the Fijian market and simultaneously supply other countries across the Pacific.

“Taula is one of those products that you can basically manufacture anywhere. It is 95 percent water, there is that special tweak in the formulation which makes it different,” Taimalie said. 

“It's [made of] the same ingredients the Germans have been using all these years and there are only four ingredients, malt, water, yeast and hops. 

“The difference is the measurements.” 

Taula has three brewmasters in the Country. 

“When I was told that the greatest beer in Germany only had four ingredients [I] said to them: ‘It can't be that hard’,” Taimalie recalls.  

“But I was told that it takes seven years for brewmasters to put together those four ingredients properly. And this is why the Germans are well known for their beer because brewmasters over there takes up seven years to learn how to make great beer.

“We tried to formulate our beer to the taste bud that I think is suitable to this market and that is exactly what we are going to do [in] the other markets. We are going to tweak [the product] to suit the market preference.

“The reason we want to go global and international is that we want to expand.”

Taimalie said that overseas expansion is the only next step to expanding the business. 

“It's just [the logical] thing to do,” he said. 

“It is something that I have always wanted to do and Taula is now in a position to do that. Taula can afford to do it and it can go many places now; but it doesn’t necessarily mean we should stick to the Taula branding; we can derive other brands from the same product that suits different local markets in the Pacific.” 

Mr Punja said the brewery would employ a highly qualified team with European training combined with German technology to produce top quality products.  

The joint venture partners, who have years of business experience under their collective belt, are highly confident in their prospects. 

The brand-new facility will be established on a six-acre property in Suva which will house the brewery and include state-of-the-art facilities and an office building. 

The company anticipates their offering will take on existing brands head-to-head but they are confident their experience, team and infrastructure will combine to overcome these challenges.  

Mr Punja said that in the future the company also intends to explore the possibilities of carbonated soft drinks. 

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