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CAN BRAND(Y) SA CAPITALISE ON THE CRAFT MOVEMENT?

We all have distant memories of the “good old days”, where ads with poster boys such as Tolla van der Merwe sold bakkies, the Webb Ellis Cup stood proudly in the Springbok trophy cabinet and brandy was the preferred spirit in the local market. The “met eish” ad is my personal most specific distant memory. This was perhaps the last really innovative marketing campaign for brandy. Now local support is swinging towards its imported, more sophisticated Scottish cousin.

Brandy consumption in South Africa has almost halved over the past decade as consumers switch to whisky. The craft gin trend has also taken off with hipster gin bars popping up everywhere and not a brandy bar in sight!

But when you speak to various industry role players it’s clear we’re not exactly brand(y) ambassadors. Instead we almost arrogantly disown our klippies-and-cola image as not being sophisticated enough. Is this attitude towards our product perhaps part of the problem?

Fact is, SA outperforms other countries on the international stage when it comes to brandy. SA has been international brandy world champion 18 times over the past 27 years.

Not many still wine brands can match this performance. But perhaps we should also examine some financial realities. Brandy is one of the few spirits products that have a direct on-farm job creation effect compared with many popular imported spirits brands that result in profits exiting our economy. More significant is the fact that it takes four litres of wine to distil and blend one litre brandy, which means 100 million litres wine has gone back into the still wine category. Ironically this is the extent by which our local bag-in-box segment has grown over the past 5 years.

Lastly we have an exceptional minimum standard when it comes to brandy production. By law even blended brandies are aged in South Africa, so in an ideal world they could have been on a par with Cognac if we, like the French, protected every product we produce with a geographic indication (GI) classification system.

I challenge you to ditch the gin at your next braai. Instead bring out the brandy and become the ambassador and educator we so desperately need.

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