SP BREWERY’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY
SP BREWERY OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED ITS 60TH ANNIVERSARY DURING THE ANNUAL CHINESE NEW YEAR DINNER THAT IT EXCLUSIVELY STAGES FOR ALL ITS CUSTOMERS.
SP Brewery Board Chairman Sir Joseph Tauvasa KBE, in announcing the SP Brewery’s milestone stepped back in time to re-visit the Company’s humble beginnings.
FIRST 20 YEARS – 1951-1971
Please allow me to take you back in time to the birth of SP Brewery, but I must acknowledge that due to timing I can only highlight major events in the 60 colourful years of SP Brewery.
Our journey begins in November 1947, when Territorian Joseph Michael Bourke applied for a liquor licence premises he proposed to erect in the town of Wau, to be called the Kaindi Hotel. The alcohol position was grim after the war. There was beer manufactured in PNG, but to meet the demands of thirsty Territorians, who have always been mighty drinkers, most beer were imported like hard liquor.
It was for this reason; Joe Bourke with a group of Territorians formed a ‘Brewery Syndicate’ and on the 25th January 1951, established South Pacific Brewery Limited.
The Syndicate’s immediate concern was land acquisition to build a Brewery. After much search, the Syndicate identified a site along Scratchley Road, Badili suitable for their purpose.
But the sight as Joe Bourke recorded in his memoire, belong to Burns Philp. And Burns Philp had constructed a prefabricated steel shed in which they had stored a lot of ex-Army laundry equipment.
The dilemma Joe was faced, was acquiring the Badili site from Burns Philp, the Big Firm, which was then notoriously hard to deal with and had always been reluctant to part with land.
Moreover dealing with the General Manager of Burns Philp (New Guinea) Mr Eddie Frame was not an easy task. Tough as they come, Frame was a great poker player, and no holds barred in business.
Joe Bourke eventually found a solution. He saw that Burns Philp was not really interested in operating a laundry, and the did so only because no alternate service was available. Their laundry equipment at Badili was worn out, and overdue for replacement.
Joe Bourke offered $2,000 commission if he could purchase, the site for no more than $10,000 cash. After 3 days of secret meetings and nerve wracking negotiations, the deal was finally concluded. When the documents were signed, sealed and delivered, Joe Bourke called on Eddie Frame and told him of the Syndicate’s plan to build a brewery on the Badili site. “I’ll never forget his reactions” as Joe recalls in his memoir. “He considered he’d been hoodwinked, and he swore that as far as Burns Philp & Company were concerned, there’d be no beer brewed in New Guinea!”.
A year later in 1952, on 26th November SP Brewery sold its first product, SP Lager.
The South Pacific Post (the fore-runner of Post Courier to day) conducted a survey at that time indicated that the majority found the beer very much to their liking.
‘Some drinkers complained of a slight aftertaste of onions, particularly from the bottled beer, but most agreed with the words of one stalwart – ‘It’s bloody good beer!’.
Thirteen years later in November 1965, – PNG citizens over the age of 18 years were entitled to drink alcohol of their choice on licensed premises. That immediately provided SP Brewery with a larger domestic market.
In 1952, SP Brewery also bought off Guinea Brewery in Lae on the land that SP Brewery now owns and has its Lae Brewery. This undoubtedly was the company’s greatest asset, which served not only the Highlands region but also the New Guinea Islands.
After the takeover of Guinea Brewery, SPB saw a remarkable expansion of operations. SP Brewery took on the beer industry and won its first gold medal for SP Lager in 1966 at the prestigious Monde Selection European Awards.
SP Brewery began its corporate social responsibility by making a direct cash contribution of K10, 000 to the 1969 South Pacific Games held in Port Moresby. This was mainly due to Bruce Flynn’s involvement with the Games, when he was the head brewer who then later became the General Manager years later. It was largely through the influence of Bruce Flynn that SP Brewery began to sponsor and assist sport in PNG.
SECOND 20 YEARS – 1972-1991
The 1970′s were to be momentous years for SP Brewery. The independent State of Papua New Guinea imposed its own restrictions and requirements on companies like SP Brewery.
The new decade provided confidence to SPB as it was widely regarded as a reputable company, a good employer that paid its debts, complied strictly by the law of the land and demonstrated a responsibility towards the community.
Involvement in the provincial cultural shows was an attractive marketing strategy.
The 1973 Hagen Show is to day remembered as the Show of the Elephant, when SP Brewery brought in the first elephant to Papua New Guinea.
The ‘Jumbo the Elephant’ promotion was the most successful event mounted by SP Brewery. Jumbo captured the hearts and imaginations of the people in the highlands, stirred admiration and delight to those that attended Show. Throughout the tour, Jumbo was draped in a spectacular cloth in company colours, emblazoned with huge SP letters. The one drawback to the Jumbo promotion was that it was a very hard act to follow.
In 1973, SP Brewery experienced new competition in the beer market, when joint venture company San Miguel and Swan Holdings Ltd, launching the 4 new beers.
On the eve of SP Brewery’s 30th Anniversary, an event of great significance to PNG took place; the 3rd South Pacific Festival of Arts held in 1980 where representatives of all Pacific Island Countries came to PNG to show case their culture, dance and tradition.
The highlight of the Festival opening was Operation Armada’ which was organised and sponsored by SP Brewery at a tune of K100, 000. This featured a magnificent decent on Ela Beach of a mighty fleet of decorated and heavily manned canoes, watched by over 20,000 excited spectators.
In 1974, Bill Flewellyn known as the Birdman with his hang glider and smoke flares graced the skies during the Goroka Show.
SP Brewery expanded their portfolio, introducing South Pacific Export Lager in June 1982, which was launched in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The Export Lager would go on and win its first gold medal in 1985 from the Monde Selections in Europe, an achievement they easily repeated in the years to come.
In 1991, for the second time the South Pacific Games came to Papua New Guinea and again SP Brewery were one of the major sponsors supporting PNG’s most successful Games through its Pepsi brand.
Pepsi was also used to fund the annual Fun Run, which SP Brewery supported through its association with the PNG Sports Federation and the PNG Sports Foundation.
b>Third 20 YEARS – 1992-2012
As a result of the success of the South Pacific Games, SP Brewery introduced the SP Sports Awards that recognises achievements of elite athletes. This prestigious event continues today, and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Awards.
As SP Brewery continues to maintain its market share and leadership on the domestic market, we extended our portfolio of beers with the launch of Niugini Ice in 1995. A beer targeting the younger and trendy consumers.
In 2000 we moved our Badili operations to Gordons. And SP Brewery took a strategic decision to concentrate its operations only on beer.
The following years leading up to our 60th anniversary, we launched our SP Gold brand. We also attained ISO 9001:2000 status to become the leading manufacturer in the country by maintaining high quality standards in the way SP Brewery conducted its business.
Let me state here that, SP Brewery has achieved astounding results over the last 60 years.
We survived many challenges and continue to uphold and maintain best business practices by:
- complying with laws and regulations and co-operate with the Government; to help strengthen the economy of local goods and services wherever possible;
- to employ, train and develop personnel, building and maintaining a loyal and efficient staff devoted to the betterment of Papua New Guinea,
- to produce the highest quality beer, developed by constant research, always zealously guarding the reputation of our trade mark, and to aid the development of the industry by supplying our product at a fair price.
On behalf of the current SP Board Chairman, Sir Joseph Tauvasa, I pay tribute and gratitude to the four Chairmen who have presided over the company before Sir Joseph and have contributed immensely to what SPB is to-day. Tribute would not be complete without also mentioning the men who served the longest periods in the company as General Managers; Joe Bourke, the Founder, Bill Johns OBE, and Bruce Flynn.
I must thank the SP Brewery Board for its continued guidance in bringing the Company forward.
I also acknowledge the unwavering commitment and support from our major shareholders, Asia Pacific Breweries Limited and Heineken N.V.
To our local shareholder, Nambawan Super Limited, thank you for providing local knowledge to the operations of the Company.
Let me finally congratulate the rest of the Management team and Staff for their commitment in turning the Board’s decision into reality.
In closing, I express my confidence in the future of PNG and SP Brewery. We have built a strong foundation upon which we can face the challenges moving forward.