Rum is taking over where gin left off – it’s the “next big thing”, according to James Copeland. However, timing plays a big part in success. “On the one hand, I was lucky to launch Copeland Rum at the beginning of 2018, because the market’s receptive to it. Consumers are excited by new products – which means it’s been relatively easy to invite people to try the product,” he says.
He also believes that launching the rum at a quieter time gave him an opportunity to bed down distribution and build relationships with influential industry players, a strategy which has been key to building the brand. It’s not just about letting people try the product: it’s also about playing a role in the development of the category – by experimenting with cocktail recipes, for example – so that people come to see rum as something more than just a cheap spirit to pour into their Coke.
It took Copeland 18 months to untangle bureaucracy regarding his product. “The industry isn’t really geared for small producers. Most of the regulations imposed by SARS and the Liquor Board are for people producing larger quantities and their inability to deal with smaller entrepreneurs slows things down.”
These processes also make production costly. Consumers may balk at the price of craft spirits, but they don’t realise that the producer receives only a very small percentage of this after paying for essentials like liquor licences, excise duties, packaging and marketing, as well as ingredients.
That said, the battle’s been worth it, says Copeland. A full-time musician, he wanted something to leave his children, besides a love of music.
The next step is the introduction of aged and spiced varieties, which will be launched once a big marketing push during the summer “drinking season” later this year helps entrench Copeland Rum as a local favourite.