Business Insider Edition

What’s up with the Viking invasion, Wimpy?

Bruce Whitfield , Business Insider SA
 Apr 19, 2019, 08:30 AM

OPINION

wimpy breakfast
(@TaineMcLean/Twitter)
  • Wimpy is serving Danish butter with its breakfasts - which is telling you something about the local dairy industry.
  • The imported butter is competing on price with local brands.
  • Also despite a large dairy industry, South Africa is consuming more butter than we can make.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa for more stories.

There are few things more quintessentially South African for the middle classes on a road trip than the ubiquitous Wimpy breakfast, accompanied by the reassuringly milky coffee.

A couple of years back, Wimpy amped up its coffee offering as it became clear that South Africans were becoming pickier about how they got their caffeine dose. It ran a marvellous ad campaign teasing their customers' newly acquired refinement.

A male voice intones in a thick accent:”Cappuccino, macchiato...”

The ad ends with a breathy female voice: “Oh, I love it when you talk foreign….”

But lately it’s not just the coffee that has gone foreign. It’s the butter too.

On a recent visit I noticed instead of a local block of butter on my plate, usually produced by Clover, there was instead a pack of Lurpak. Not complaining, it was delicious.

But it did warrant some questions.

Lurpak is produced in Denmark by dairy processing firm Arla. How is it feasible that Wimpy can serve a 7g pack of Lurpak when South Africa has a thriving agribusiness sector and Clover, the country’s biggest milk producer, makes tons of the stuff every year?

Questions to Clover went unanswered for two weeks, but Wimpy says it’s having problems with local supply.

“South Africa is experiencing a shortage of locally produced butter. While a major local supplier has recently adjusted their pack size, we can confirm that our decision to source from alternative suppliers in the interim is unrelated to size or price,” says Wimpy marketing executive Jacques Cronje.

There was most certainly a shortage in 2017, when due to drought and banters putting spoonfuls of the stuff into their morning coffee (yes, there was a fortunately short-lived craze) supplies ran low.

But the problem is far from over.

South Africa is consuming more butter than we can make.

And it turns out, even with its massive carbon footprint and the cost of transporting foreign made butter from across the globe, imports compare favourably on price.

“The imported products are priced competitively; we must however reinforce that price is not the driving factor for the decision to temporarily source imported butter.  Wimpy is a proudly South African brand that supports locally sourced products wherever possible and prior to the shortage, all butter was locally sourced,” says Cronje.

“Ongoing availability of product is critical for business continuity, in this situation we have had to temporarily source imported alternatives to ensure consistency of supply.”

It doesn’t however look as if it will improve dramatically any time soon, and Wimpy says it will revert to local suppliers the moment it is able to.

Don’t hold your breath.

Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award-winning financial journalist and broadcaster.

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