By Isaac Blessings
If you grew up in the late 80s and 90s chances are high that you are familiar with Mirinda and Babito soda brands. These brands grew to become household names in the country giving Coca Cola products a run for their money. Years later, these brands are no longer in the market but the company is still producing soda and soft drinks under the brand name ‘Highlands’ and ‘Club Soda.’
Even with their dominance in the market, not many are aware that the company started off as a kiosk. In this article, WoK brings you the interesting journey of Highlands drinks limited.
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Highlands Drinks Limited Journey
Highlands was founded in 1947 by the late Tribhovan Padia, who is the grandfather of the firm’s current CEO Ashin Padia. It started off as a small shop situated in Nyeri town christened Padia stores. At the time, it mainly supplied different drinks and water at wholesale prices in the town and its environs. The shop steadily grew and transformed into a drinks manufacturing company after Nyeri town was connected to the national grid. The founder saw an opportunity to take on the leading multinational companies in the industry such as Coca Cola by offering locally made products at affordable prices. He invested in machines and a lab-transforming the shop from Padia Stores to Highlands Mineral Water Company in 1954.
Establishing Highlands Company
The company was registered as a beverage company in late 1954. It began producing purified water under the brand name ‘Highlands Water’ and joined the juice market with its brands ‘Tropical Cordial, Highlands pineapple and orange juices.’ The company’s products took the industry by storm giving Quencher products sleepless nights since they were the dominant players at the time. It also joined the Soda industry that was controlled and dominated by Coca-Cola products and their brands ‘Mirinda’ and ‘Babito’ soda became quite popular. By the time the founder was passing on, the company had become a household name in the country reaping millions in profits.
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The Success of Highlands Company
After the death of Mr. Tribhovan Padia, Ashin Padia took over as the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Padia had lived in the United Kingdom for some time before relocating to Kenya in 2009 and taking over the leadership of the company. Under his leadership, the company has revived soda production after the collapse of the Mirinda and Babito products. In May 2014, the company announced its new soda products under the brand name ‘Club soda’ which include cola, orange, Tangawizi and lemon variants.
“The uptake of Club Soda brands has honestly surpassed our expectations, thanks to our consumers who continue to give us useful feedback about our different brands. We are happy to report that independent Nielsen Research ranks us number two in the one way segment,” revealed Ashin Padia during an exclusive interview with the Star newspaper.
As of 2015, Highlands boasts of a workforce of more than 400 employees as well as creating over 4,000 indirect jobs to Kenyans. The company’s soda brands, that is, lemon, cola, lime and orange are available in 300ml, 500ml, and 1.25 liter plastic bottles. A liter of Club Soda costs Ksh 99 while a 300ml bottle goes for Ksh 25.
“As a player in this market we have learnt that consumers are willing and able to embrace a good brand with the right quality, with the right taste profile and right price,” revealed Padia during the interview.