Varun ramps up production

VARUN Beverages Zimbabwe (Varun), says it has ramped up its production capacity by over 150 percent in a development that has seen PepsiCo’s largest franchise bottler churning out 36 million bottles monthly.

Vijay Kumar Bahl, chief operating officer at Pepsi, said the firm — which is planning to invest US$150 million in Zimbabwe over the next five years — was also forging ahead with plans to diversify from beverages in the near future.

“We started with one production line and we have added capacity by 150 percent more and today we have capacity to produce 36 million bottles in one month. We are looking at opportunities of adding more production lines of beverages and cans etc so that we can provide our consumers in Zimbabwe with a complete liquid refreshment beverage,” Bahl said.
So far, the beverages firm has already invested US$50 million in Zimbabwe.

Bahl’s sentiments come as RJ Corporation (RJ Corp) chairperson, Ravi Jaipuria, recently told business daily that the business was venturing into a potato chips business which will see the beverages manufacturer sell frozen fresh chips potatoes to hotels, restaurants and supermarkets locally.
RJ Corp owns Varun Beverages.

“It will be about $7 to $8 million… We are looking to start with one tonne per hour, that is one tonne of french fries, and it will be basically for restaurants and supermarkets for people to come and buy. Lots will be for restaurants and fast foods,” Jaipuria said on a recent visit.

Varun is also eyeing regional soft drink exports following commissioning of its $40 million green field production facility in 2018. The plant — equipped with a 400-bottle-per-minute production line — is anticipated to spur Varun Beverages into the regional market.

“We will soon start exports to Zambia, Botswana and other neighbouring countries... Ultimately, we will also start on an agricultural programme which will see us exporting potato fries into the region,” Jaipuria said.

PepsiCo started operations last year. On completion, the PepsiCo plant was projected to create at least 400 jobs and another 2 600 downstream.

Additionally, Varun has also set sights on expanding its dairy business into the Zimbabwean market. The business — which will engage out grower small-scale farmers across the country who will then feed into the processing plant with necessary raw materials — was going to be established in the next three years.
In 2013, Varun set up a $15 million dairy processing plant in Zambia together with Beverages Zambia Limited. On inception, the plant created 250 jobs.

The coming in of a new dairy player will offer competition to established dairy firms like Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed, Dairibord, Dendairy and Alpha Omega Dairy.