Concerns pouring in over moving Vailima’s production to Fiji

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Concerns are coming forward regarding the move by Samoa Breweries Limited (SBL) to close the production plant in Samoa and shift its operation to Fiji. 

Lafaele Ngau Chun and his wife Lei in an email to Chairman of Samoa Breweries Ltd Board and Managing Director of Coca-Cola New Zealand and Pacific, Mr. Chris Litchfield cited that Vailima is a Samoan product.  

“Vailima means water in your hands and history is associated with this name and water source on Mt Vaea where the water source is.” 

The couple then called on the Samoa Breweries Limited Board to sell the plant back to the Samoa people.

Sell it back to Samoa we will make it work. We, my wife n myself, are also local small shareholders,” said the email. 

Last week, the SBL announced moving production of the Vailima to Fiji and closing its plant at Vaitele.

Another letter to the Chairman pointed to the last Annual General Meeting in which Mr. Litchfield made remarks on working on a way forward for Vailima and Samoa Breweries Ltd.

However, finding out plans to close production in Samoa and have things move to Fiji is “disappointing”. 

“I do not think you have Vailima and Samoa’s best interest at heart with this decision. Probably you have opted for a more profitable scenario on paper.  But I tell you this will not work.” 

The letter says Mr. Litchfield’s reluctance to invest in Samoa and plans to take Samoa’s Iconic Vailima Brand to be manufactured in Fiji is a low blow from the board on the Samoa people.

“It’s like selecting the NZ All Blacks from NZ players playing in the Australian national Rugby competition.

“Do you think the NZ public will be happy about this? Will the NZ People support this Australian All Blacks team? Can this team be called the Real All Blacks?

We Samoans have very big pride and love for family, friends, and homeland. 

“Vailima Brand is Samoan. Samoans love it because it’s from Samoa.  It’s the pride of our homeland. You take that away and it will be just like any other beer. 

Having the brand made in Fiji will be a big disaster for the Coca-Cola Brand. I say Coca-Cola because you will be risking the Coca-Cola brand by creating this frustration and disappointment amongst Samoans.” 

The letter further calls on the company calls on Board Chairman not to “disrespect” them by doing this.  

“Coca-Cola and Samoa have been friends and had a good relationship in the past few years. Don’t ruin this relationship by what you have planned to do. We had issues with plastic usage, and an increase plastic waste in Samoa a few months back due to moving of production to Fiji for soft drinks. Now you intend to hurt us more by doing the same to favourite Beer. 

“Please do not do this as it will be a mistake playing around with people’s pride for the sale of more profit.” 

Citing they do not believe the notion that investing in manufacturing in Samoa is unprofitable.  

“It may look less favourble compared to moving operations to Fiji, but Samoans will refuse to buy this beer and you will end up killing the brand.  

“You should just call it a Fiji beer instead of naming it Vailima. It will be very disrespectful of you to do this and hoodwink the people that the beer is still being brewed by Samoans or in Samoa.” 

“Coca-Cola should not try and deceive the people in thinking that Vailima is still the same thing. It would be much better if you just return the brand back to the people if you think that its not profitable enough to invest in operation in Samoa. Don’t insult us with what you are planning to do. You will only be exiling the brand to Fiji where it will slowly die out.

Don’t play with our pride,” concluded the letter to the Chairman of the Board.