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South Africa's Beverage Landscape: A Brew of Competition, Wine Tourism, and Spirits

Jeremy Sampson
08 September 2023

Statistics would have you believe that approximately half of the South African population abstains from consuming alcoholic drinks, whilst the other half compensates for them!

When we look at South Africa’s top alcoholic drinks brands, these are predominantly beer brands belonging to the AB InBev family, the world’s largest brewer. ABinBev took over South African Breweries that had grown into SABMiller in 2016. Among these brands, the most valuable is the iconic Castle, with a history dating back to 1895.

Last year, AB InBev’s Dutch rival Heineken hiked up the competition. Heineken has acquired South Africa’s 16th ranked brand, Distell, which includes its cider brands Savanna and Hunters, as well as fine wine Nederberg and Amarula Cream, second only to Diageo’s Bailey’s Irish Cream. The acquisition also includes local manufacturing facilities and a distribution network expanding into Africa. The Dutch giant also has a close relationship with Namibia-based Windhoek Brewery, further solidifying its presence on the African continent. With the two mega-brands increasingly competing against one another, we start to speculate on an impending “beer war” as both strive to increase their market share.

With South Africa’s economy facing challenges, including inflation, an inefficient government, and a declining local currency value, the prices of imported brands have become an issue for some consumers. However, this has caused a more positive shift towards South African’s local brands, as wine tourism is on the rise and overseas buyers increase. Mainly from France, buyers are establishing partnerships or acquiring assets as they are currently perceived as better value for money compared to other wine regions. South Africa offers a wide range of affordable yet highly drinkable wines, providing excellent quality and value for money.

South Africa’s top-selling brand by value is Rupert & Rothschild. Another notable brand is Chocolate Block. Produced at Boukenhoutskloof in Franschhoek, Chocolate Block has seen commercial success and involvement from former ad agency professionals, highlighting the benefits of branding expertise. However, many wine producers still remain focused on the agricultural aspects of winemaking. As a commodities based economy, South Africa has an immense opportunity to move up the value chain, like how Australia has.

In addition, spirits brands remain popular in South Africa. Here, we have a long history of producing award winning brandies on the global stage, including Van Ryn, Viceroy, and Richelieu.

South Africa’s gin landscape has also expanded, with Inverroche leading the way, now acquired by French giant Pernod Ricard.

About the Author

Jeremy Sampson
Executive Chairman
Africa

Jeremy is the managing director of Brand Finance Africa and has almost 50 years’ experience working in between London and Johannesburg in marketing, advertising, graphic design, public relations, reputation management and branding. He founded and was the Executive Chairman of the Africa operations of the international branding group, Interbrand until he stepped down in October 2014.

Jeremy himself was awarded the prestigious Financial Mail AdFocus Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2010 and holds over 100 design awards.

Today Jeremy consults/mentors/advises, sits on boards/advisory panels, writes and speaks and is very active in the media, including hosting programmes for Classic FM.

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