Product reviews: ‘Simba Cement’ displaces veteran brands as king of the industry

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The Cofek Research Unit has been reviewing the most used products and services from different manufacturers and or service providers. This has been across several sectors.

In the cement manufacturing sector, we focus on ‘Simba Cement’ from National Cement for attracting the highest contractors and consumers interest.

Simba Cement was first produced 11 years ago. Then the price of ordinary cement averaged Sh700 in Athi River and Nairobi to Sh800 per 50kg for the standard strength (32.5) bag in far-flung areas – on cost of transport.

With an estimated market share of about 22 percent, Simba Cement is one key reason why prices of cement have defied a decade of inflationary pressures to climb down.

Cement prices in Kenya have stagnated at between Sh550 and Sh700 per 50-kilogramme bag for nearly a decade.

Analysts say the new entrants, Simba Cement, in the sector are the reason why cut-throat competition has kept the prices much lower than for most of other cement and related products. Before then, only two major brands dictated higher pricing.

The cement industry in Kenya, generally, spends in the range of between 25 to 50 percent production cost on energy. Taxes average about 30 percent and 25 percent for labour charges.

Pricing

The convergence between pricing and quality has catapulted Simba Cement to higher consumer acceptability than many of its’ peers.

Stiff competition in the Kenyan market has kept cement prices flat, a move that has seen the firms turn their focus on new products such as ready mix and high-strength varieties used in major projects like SGR, Thika Superhighway and Nairobi Expressway.

In mid September Cofek Research Unit interviewed 50 randomly selected contractors, large and small.

62 percent (31) were found to use the Simba Cement brand. 38 percent (19 ) used other brands. Geographical focus of the survey was on 10 Counties of Kajiado, Machakos, Nairobi, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Nyeri, Kakamega, Kisumu and Kiambu.

The 3 part questionnaire sought to find out their most preferred cement. Of the ones, who used Simba Cement, we asked for their experience and especially on why they opted for it. Further, they were asked if they had a reason they may want to continue using it.

The methodology involved phone question and answer using multiple range and option answers.

Results

Based on the survey, the key results saw an overwhelming majority of respondents say that they used Simba Cement on account of convergence between high quality and lower pricing.

Pressed further, some disclosed that the reason they trusted the strength of Simba Cement was largely because the buildings and other structures that used the brand – none of the buildings had collapsed.

This notwithstanding the fact that collapse of a building goes beyond strength of cement to include steel structures and foundation stability, among others.

The fact that Simba Cement have got it right on quality and pricing was the keen reason why majority said they would wish to continue using it.

90 percent of those who use Simba Cement said they preferred using Simba Cement because of its’ ready availability through reliable distribution chains – in both urban, peri-urban and rural areas.

Simba Cement is riding on a pricing strategy to gain sales volumes while their production costs are likely to have been cushioned by the efficiency of their grinding plants.

Positives

From the survey responses, the brand prides itself on faster drying and settling time, greater comprehensive strength and adaptability to diverse weather conditions.

Its’ vast coverage and availability through better transport and other logistical networks have seen the product in nearly everywhere in Kenya and in Uganda. The high grade of fineness of the product from the actual fill and grinding enables better and easier and even mix within mortar.

Some of its’ positives, from the survey responses, include conformity and certification by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). Again, Simba Cement is said to be suitable for all general purpose applications with little or no breakage or spillage due to eco-friendly packing.

The survey respondents added that the cement is cost-effective because of its proven workability, strength and durability; that it saves users time because of its high strength capability and the strength of brand makes it ideal for many specialized applications – across board from roads, bridges, buildings, among others.

The limitation of the survey was that we could not access latest market information on cement.

With no one-stop regulator on cement, information is scanty. Unverified information from the various industry players cannot be relied upon for their authenticity.

According to The National Independent Clinker Verification Committee (NICVC) Report of September, 2021, ‘The cement industry production capacity has grown exponentially, from 2.1 mn tonnes in 2005 to 6 mn tonnes in 2019, while demand has been increasing at a diminishing rate, from 1.6 mn tonnes in 2005 to 5.93 mn in 2019. The demand for cement was highest in 2016, at 6.31 mn tonnes. This growth is attributed to the growth of the construction industry, as well as implementation of major infrastructure projects by the Government such as Standard Gauge Railway and roads’.

The NICVC also observed that clinker quality has an impact on among other issues the cost of production; quality of cement; variety of cement one can produce and even for environmental impact. This means the poorer the quality of clinker, the higher the carbon dioxide emission.

A new standard for clinker is, therefore needed, but KEBS estimates development of a standard takes about 9 months.

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