But all is not lost. According to a SA Brandy Foundation report, brandy regained market share from SA whisky during the latter part of 2015. It said: “The spirits market has been turned on its head. For the past few years whisky was the star performer and taking volumes from the brandy market. This changed in 2014/2015 with whisky losing volumes and brandy volumes stabilising.”
Two significant company moves took place in South Africa in 2015 –the SAB/Anheuser-Busch merger and Brandhouse being split into two separate entities. The three beers – Windhoek, Amstel and Heineken – under Heineken and the spirit products under the name of the parent company, Diageo.
The report says whisky was the only category to gain volumes in 2014, with brandy volumes down by 5% and the other categories flat. This changed during 2015 with brandy up 1% and whisky down by 7%. It says: “Distell took a brave decision in February 2015 not increasing the prices of three brandy products, namely Klipdrift Export, Commando and Viceroy. All these products are popular in the mainstream market and good growth on Commando and Viceroy is the reason that the brandy market volumes stabilised.”
Reade-Jahn says the change in fortunes was down to a concerted effort from all the SA brands. “It has started to impact on sales. The marketing focus on premiumisation and fresh messaging from the bigger brands is starting to impact the consumer choice.”
Bowman adds: “It was all down to aggressive marketing. I was personally involved in several tastings and
presentations showing that brandy can be as trendy as many other drinks.
We use the blended brandies in cocktails and even celebrated Brandy Alexander day – something I did not know even existed.”
Focusing on the younger consumer is key to this, she says: “We are moving into the younger market who are enjoying the younger, fruitier brandies as an aperitif, right up the more mature, heavier brandies for after dinner.”
By way of comparison, the report looks at the retail prices of products popular in the mainstream spirits market. It says: “Products such as Johnnie Walker Black and Jack Daniels have become very expensive. The price of a premium vodka such as Skyy equals the price of Johnnie Walker Red. With the rand/dollar and rand/pound exchange rate at the current rate these products will get even more expensive, resulting in the growth of the more affordable products such as Viceroy, Commando, Gordon’s, Old Buck and Smirnoff.”
Domestically and globally, Van Ryn’s Dippenaar says it’s all about value for her company’s consumers. “The growth [in South Africa] was through a small selection of brands which have successfully shown the consumer a reason to believe in those brands.”
“Viceroy and Klipdrift particularly had a good year but what’s most exciting to see is luxury brands such as Van Ryn’s showing some decent growth”, Dippenaar says. “I believe the way the category is marketed will change the face of brandy in the near future and substantial growth will come in the long term.”