WHY IDRIS ELBA WANTS YOU TO DRINK MORE BRANDY
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.
A BLEAK OVERVIEW
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.
THE IMAGE ISSUE
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