AFRICA: Most of Africa's leading home-grown consumer products (CP) companies operate in the food and drink categories, where they have opportunities to take share from imported brands and to tap into a growing private label sector.

An analysis by consultancy Deloitte highlighted the performance of the continent's Top 50 local CP companies – defined as those whose core business is the manufacture of consumer products and who generate most of their revenue from the sale of goods produced for and purchased by the ultimate consumer.

These included 32 food companies, 14 beverage companies, two in personal care & household products, and one each in tobacco and home furnishings.

The study noted several developing themes that are affecting African CP companies, including weak domestic currencies and shortage of foreign exchange that have increased the prices of imported goods.

But, it suggested, there is a potential opportunity here as "it provides local companies (or companies with local production operations) with an opportunity to take market share from imported brands and products".

In Tanzania, for example, Coca-Cola is facing challenges from cheaper local brands like Azam Cola and Mo Cola.

Price and production facilities are also factors in the development of private labels, alongside the growth of modern retail, as South African retail chains expand into West and Southern Africa.

Retailers adopting this approach are not only able to increase local sourcing – and so reduce their exposure to exchange rate fluctuations – but they can also improve their margins, the study noted.

But, Deloitte, warned, "the brand-consciousness of African consumers may act as an obstacle to growth if manufacturers fail to showcase the quality of their products".

Further, local sourcing is sometimes the best way to overcome the continent's notoriously poor transport infrastructure and the higher costs this imposes.

At a hyper-local level, both multinationals and local businesses are using "micro-distributors" to distribute to retailers in some crowded markets, using handcarts and two-wheelers, for example, to deliver where traditional delivery services cannot.

Dylan Piatti, senior industry chief of staff at Deloitte Africa, expected increased investment in the consumer products sector.

"Positive economic prospects linked to accelerating urbanisation, a growing middle class, and Africa's young population, along with improvements in infrastructure and technological developments, has attracted the expansion interests of a range of African and international multinational companies in the consumer products sector," he said.

Data sourced from Deloitte, How We Made It In Africa; additional content by WARC staff