No drinking
  • South Africa's latest liquor ban came at a cost of R7.6 billion, says market research company NielsenIQ.
  • That doesn't include restaurants and hotels.
  • Sellers saw demand surges just after prohibitions were lifted, the company says, but those didn't last.
  • Beer has been particularly hard hit, with former patrons lacking the money to go drinking.
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* This article has been updated below.

South Africa's latest lockdown booze ban came at a cost of R7.6 billion, says market research company NielsenIQ, and drinking habits have been disrupted, with beer taking a particular knock.

The company compiled its estimate, in a report called "Recovering from a Sobering Situation" using data from grocery stores, "semi-wholesalers" and re-distributors, and licensed bars and taverns. It did not include restaurants and hotels. 

The lockdown alcohol bans pushed the SA liquor industry into uncharted territory, says NielsenIQ, with lasting effects. People are not necessarily reverting to their old behaviours once prohibition lifts. 

"The reality is a changed consumer and changed in-store shopping patterns," said NielsenIQ SSA Commercial Director Ged Nooy in a statement.

After the first lockdown booze ban, the company found, sales bounced back at first, then declined again. The same happened after the second ban too, so that by the end of 2020, year-on-year liquor sales were down 36%.

“After the end of the third ban in January this year, liquor categories performed quite differently in terms of regained sales and growth,” says NielsenIQ.

Beer in particular was hit hard; people simply didn’t have the money to go drinking in taverns, says NielsenIQ. That saw the beer market shrink by a third.

Box wine – often cheap and easy to store – did well by comparison, the company says, as consumers sought better value for money while stocking up.

Large cans have also seen an uptick, from around a quarter of category sales before to around a third in the first quarter of 2021.

* This article was updated after publication to reflect a correction by NielsenIQ, which initially said losses had amounted to R37.6 billion – not the R7.6 billion it had actually calculated. It was previously updated to make it clear that cost estimate relates only to the most recent ban on liquor sales.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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