To say that alcohol is an integral part of South African life is perhaps an understatement. With as many as four bans since March of last year and numerous periods of trade restrictions, our alcohol ban issues have dominated conversations and regularly made national, and sometimes even global, headlines.
It’s not just about our love of beer pervading braai and a glass of wine at the end of each day. As far as alcohol is concerned, the main South African producers are recognized internationally, as the Dutch giant Heineken has shown to put more than 2 billion euros on the table to acquire the company Distell and its range of leading brands in their category. We are, of course, also a famous and important wine producing country, and we do well when it comes to local eaux-de-vie, liqueurs, ciders and gin. Although we are not the country of the heaviest drinkers on the African continent, it is Nigeria, alcohol, its production and consumption are integrated into the industry, wealth and culture of our country.
BrandMapp, a massive annual survey of over 33,000 South Africans living in households with a monthly income of R10,000 and above, delved into our recent views and habits during the Alcohol Stress Pandemic. The survey focuses on a 30% segment of the population that is relatively, moderately to very wealthy. This is a sample representing 100% of the country’s taxpayers and 80% of consumer income, and therefore expenditure, in the formal economy.
Gin is now more popular than beer for middle class South Africans and up
A whopping 76% of middle class and older South African adults drink alcohol. Wine has always been the drink consumed by the greatest number of adults, but over the past four years, gin has taken second place on the beverage podium. Brandon de Kock, BrandMapp’s Director of Storytelling, says: “Around the world, the strong marketing trend of gin has been easily embraced by consumers, and South Africa has not been left behind in our response. With our historic and astute distillation skills, we were able to quickly capitalize on the interest in artisanal gins, and with our unique fynbos herbs at hand, South African gin flourished. But I think the main reason for its rapid rise in popularity has a lot to do with being genre independent. It appeals to both men and women alike, so it caters to 100% of the market, unlike other categories like beer and cider which are generally heavily divided based on gender. “
De Kock continues, “When we look at the trend over the past four years, it is interesting that while gin has taken beer down to third place, it has taken its gains over wine while consuming beer remained the same. The relative decline in wine consumption can be attributed, among other things, to the “rejuvenation” of the market. Typically, the habit of wine is acquired with age, knowledge of wine and experience. 28% of our respondents cited wine tasting and membership in wine clubs as one of their favorite pastimes. “
The choice of drinks across South Africa’s o-be-joy generations
“So wine is very similar to whiskey in that it is indeed an acquired taste,” says De Kock. “We also see that there are spirits that we ‘grow up’ such as vodka and cider. While gin appears to be on a similar trajectory, the story is a bit more complicated. Obviously, gin has really found favor with millennials, but in absolute terms it has also increased by 100% in older cohorts over the past four years. I think it’s this rapid growth that has made everyone very excited that the “artisan rum” market is doing the same, but I have my doubts about that. We may live in a country where sugarcane grows like a weed, but rum has such a low base it would be a huge surprise to see it be the ‘next gin’. Personally, I think there is more room in the premium cider market than there is in crushed sugar cane!
Are South Africans ready to jump on the alcohol-free train?
In the pursuit of healthier lifestyles, the choice is widening when it comes to non-alcoholic beer and gin, de-alcoholized wine and “non-alcoholic cocktails”. But, as a nation where alcohol is deeply embedded in our social rituals, will South Africa embrace it? Given the outcry over pandemic alcohol bans, that seems overkill. BrandMapp 2021 asked the questions: Do you see yourself drinking less alcohol in the near future? What if you stop drinking in the near future? De Kock says: “The older generations say: how about another trick! It is clear that Millennials are the most aware of their drinking habits, with 27% thinking they might cut back in the near future and 10% considering quitting alcohol altogether. This is the generation that currently dominates the workforce and actively builds its wealth. If they really want to change their drinking habits, could we be on the verge of a drastic change in the drinking culture in South Africa? ”
To learn more about BrandMapp 2021, visit www.brandmapp.co.za.