Booze on the go?

2020 Was The First Time Boxed Wine Outsold Bottled Booze In South Africa

By  |  February 16, 2021

The illustrious South African alcohol industry, which is responsible 4.4 percent of the nation’s GDP, got drunk last year.

Both country and liquor industry are having a hangover from South Africa’s booze ban. Meant to keep casualties low during the COVID-19 waves, the government’s intermittent censorship of alcohol gave boxed wine more shots than it did for bottles.

Thanks to curfews, the closure of bars, the pillage of breweries and a blanket ban on booze—as well as cigarette—the wine sales segment of the Southern African country staggered away a fifth of its usual output.

While bottled booze was getting zonked, boxed wines used the opportunity to make a hard run for their money. Locally called “bag-in-box wines”, these alternatives showed quite the Dutch courage throughout last year.

According to new figures from SA Wine Industry Information and Systems (Sawis)—the country’s official cellar for wine-related data—total wine sales amounted to 285 million litres, meagre compared to the acute tolerance 2019 had to output 356 million litres in total sales.

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The market’s sparking wine segment spilled by 20 percent in entire sales, reducing to less than 8 million litres. In 2019, obviously, sparkling wine had more economic drip.

Only the boxed wine segment saw the lowest amount of decline, changing only 10 percent to 126.3 million litres. That means sales for boxed wines swayed, but did not wobble as much as the other segments, making it the most industrious drunk in the tavern.

Ordinarily, this looks like the ideal practice in trying times like the coronavirus pandemic; “let’s send billions of bottled booze to age in space and find euphoria in boxed-wine until things go back to normal”.

After all, the World Health Organization (WHO) is in on the clamour against excessive potation to limit the spread of the novel virus and keep the immune system pristine enough to survive the worst case scenario.

Nevertheless, being the first time boxes have broken bottles in South Africa, this reversal of tables means bottling companies have to either exit the market or find a way to dance along this new music. Provided things stay this way and probably result in a boxed-based wine industry, these firms need something for a change.

Even the sales of glass-contained wines cracked 24 percent to 121 million litres. Since people are drinking more at home than they ever did in bars, clubs and other recreational centers combined, it makes sense how the demand for (easily portable and concealable) boxed and more economic versions of their favorite booze brands became stronger.

The way Philip Retief, the CEO of Van Loveren Vineyards puts it for Business Insider South Africa helps the context make even more sense. According to him, boxed-wine has been growing for the past 5 years, and now that it has been boosted by the pandemic, it now offers more value.

“Boxed wine is seen as offering more value, and being more convenient,” says Retief. “And because many quality wines are now also available in boxes, younger wine-drinkers often don’t have the negative perceptions that older generations have about drinking wine from a box,” he added.

Though this is the first time boxes smash bottles in alcohol sales in South Africa, it isn’t the first of such records in the world. In fact, still as a result of similar coronavirus-spiked market conditions in countries like the United States, Australia, and—more naturally—Sweden, majority of wine is now sold in boxes.

For a country as new to such a shift in a continent like Africa, the wine and general alcohol market looks well prepared for this market shift. Woolworths—one of South Africa largest chain of supermarkets—launched a range premium wines in 3-litre boxes. The assortment included brands like Kleine Zalze, Pierre Jourdan, Beyerskloof, and Diemersdal.

Van Loveren, an established SA foremost family-owned and operated wine business, also rolled out a three-litre option a couple of years ago, followed by a five-litre upgrade. 2020 was as well the first time SAWIS (South Africa Wine Information System) recorded canned wine sales in the country, which was up to 69,100 litres last year.

Moreover, a boxed-based alcohol market looks looks suitable for a country that recycles only 30 percent of its glass packaging but puts 70 percent of used beverage cans back into safe use.

Featured Image: BBC

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