Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - BY KRISTIA VAN HEER­DEN

Brandy has been par t of South Africa’s drink­ing cul­ture since 1672, when the first brandy was dis­tilled aboard a Dutch ship. Through t he years t he brandy in­dus­try has con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the South African econ­omy, but the golden age of the am­ber liquor has come and gone. With whisky win­ning i ncreas­ing mar­ket share and brandy strug­gling to shake off its t wo-l itre- Coke three-litre-Ford im­age, des­per­ate mea­sures are needed to re­vive an ail­ing in­dus­try.


The last 30 years have been bru­tal. De­spite be­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally revered for its qual­ity and taste, only 8% of lo­cal brandy is ex­ported and ac­counts for a mere 3.5% of world brandy sales.

“South African brandy is very much still a lo­cally con­sumed prod­uct,” says Caro­line Sny­man, di­rec­tor for lux­ury brands at Dis­tell. She adds that the company is see­ing growth off a small base out­side South African bor­ders, mainly into African mar­kets. “There are as­pi­ra­tions to drive ex­ports of South African brandies, but grow­ing a spir­its cat­e­gory out­side of its home base is a slow process,” she says.

Since the in­dus­try’s peak in 2006,

econ­omy-wide loss of R1.56bn lo­cal eco­nomic value added and 7 526 job op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Reade-Jahn says. She adds t hat t he mar­ket de­mand for brandy also has a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the pri­mary wine pro­ducer. Re­search in­di­cates ev­ery 1% in­crease in South African brandy sales vol­umes re­sults in a 0.9% in­crease the price of dis­till­ing wine. A re­cov­ery of the brandy in­dus­try will there­fore pos­i­tively i nf lu­ence the over­all prof­itabil­ity of lo­cal wine pro­duc­ers.


Sny­man says t hat es­tate and craft brandies are cre­at­ing a buzz in the in­dus­try. Bo­plaas in Cal­itz­dorp, in the Western Cape, has been pro­duc­ing and ex­port­ing brandy si nce 1880 and is a prime ex­am­ple of the role of smaller man­u­fac­tur­ers in stim­u­lat­ing the in­dus­try. Wine­maker Mar­gaux Nel says t hat con­trary to i ndus­try trends, Bo­plaas has seen an in­crease in sales. Most of the es­tate’s brandy is sold di­rectly to t he pub­lic. The es­tate pro­duces only 5 000 litres of its much-loved f ive-year-old brandy and about 1 000 litres of the eight-yearold an­nu­ally. The es­tate’s 1880 Ox Wagon Re­serve 8 Year Pot­still Brandy sold for an av­er­age price of R3 800 per case of six at this year’s Ned­bank Cape Wine­mak­ers Guild Auc­tion. The high­est bid for the brandy came in at R4 400 – that’s R733 per bot­tle.


Can t he brandy in­dus­try re­cover f rom t he whisky i nva­sion? Says Sny­man: “By ed­u­cat­ing South Africans on how brandy is made and how best to drink it, we can com­pete with t he whisky cat­e­gory. I be­lieve that by pro­mot­ing our best pot­still brandies, which are con­sis­tently awarded on a global scale, we will broaden our fan base as South Africans re­alise that our prod­ucts are world class.”

Van Niek­erk agrees, adding that t he pot­sti l l brandy cat­e­gor y was only es­tab­lished in the l ate 1990s and presents an op­por­tu­nity to build di­ver­sity a nd f ur t her va l ue i nto t he brandy range. He says t his i s par­tic­u­larly ob­vi­ous in the share of pre­mium brandies. “Su­per and ul­tra­premium brandies ac­count for 5.3% of lo­cal brandy sales value, while the same price seg­ment in whisky ac­counts for 11% of whisky sales,” he says.

In add it ion to th e work o f in­di­vid­ual brandy brands, the SABF is work­ing tire­lessly to cre­ate a thirst for the drink in the lo­cal mar­ket. The Fine Brandy Fu­sion – a showcase of f ine South African brandies held an­nu­ally in Sand­ton and Cape Town – is gain­ing trac­tion ev­ery year, with a 41% in­crease in attendance this year. Reade-Jahn says that invit­ing the pub­lic to visit farms where they can see the pro­duc­tion process and taste the brandy, brandy and food pair­ings as well as brandy Mas­ter­classes are all ef­forts to boost brandy’s im­age. The SABF also es­tab­lished the Brandy Guild, a group of 60 inf lu­en­tial South Africans who are am­bas­sadors for lo­cal brandy. The star-stud­ded am­bas­sador list in­cludes Trevor Manuel, ProVerb, Elana Afrik a- Bre­denkamp, Pete Goffe-Wood and Billy Gal­lagher.


The in­dus­try’s at­tempts at rais­ing the pro­file of brandy have re­sulted in a num­ber of ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns fea­tur­ing high-pro­file celebri­ties, with Oude Meester lead­ing the charge.

First Jamie Foxx ex­tolled the virtues of Benja min Franklin , whose head st il l graces t he iconic Oude Meester bot­tle, in a lux­u­ri­ous black-and-white com­mer­cial. More re­cently, the ever-so-suave Idris Elba was also fea­tured in an Oude Meester cam­paign in which he shows a young South African how to l ive the good l i fe. His aff i l ia­tion with the brand will con­tinue for some t i me, with the man him­self do­ing a tour of SA this month.

Sny­man says that the cam­paigns are an at tempt to make t he Oude Meester brand more rel­e­vant to the l i fest yle of brandy drinkers. The brand’s bold­ness was re­warded with an up­swing in sales, but she says they will only be able to as­cer­tain whether the Elba cam­paign has cre­ated last­ing mo­men­tum at the end of a full year.

UK ac­tor Idris Elba (L) and SA en­ter­tainer Siyabonga Radebe are brand am­bas­sadors for

Oude Meester.

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