Consumers drove demand for maas and buttermilk in 2020, as the pandemic eroded spending power. (Image: Clover)
  • Demand for maas and buttermilk surged in 2020, as people opted for more affordable staples.
  • They also favoured the convenience of shopping at garage forecourts as lockdown regulations kept them at home.
  • This helped push prices for maas and buttermilk down and spurred garage retailers to alter their product mix to meet demand.
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Lockdown has seen South African consumers opting to buy some of their essential food staples at garage forecourt stores, and when they did, they mostly shopped for dairy products such as maas and buttermilk, new data by BMi research shows.

Although still a tiny sales distribution channel, garage forecourts showed the most prominent volume growth - for maas and buttermilk, alongside bottom-end retailers.

"It is believed that the convenience offered by these outlets, relative to other larger outlets, positively contributed to the recorded volume demand," said Khathu Musingadi, research analyst at BMi Research.

"As a result, garage forecourts have adjusted their product mix to ensure a more balanced offering between immediate consumption and future consumption pack alternatives," said Musingadi.

Many who hunkered down at home in adherence to pandemic regulations may have shopped more often at petrol station retailers closer to their homes, relative to malls.

Maas, a popular staple in South Africa, is milk that is fermented and typically had with uphutu or crumbly pap.

In its research, BMi found that South Africa's buttermilk and maas sector recorded volume growth in 2020 when the coronavirus flared up in the country. The dairy segment was the only value-added dairy category that grew during the period, Musingadi said.

The pandemic and its impact on the economy threatened consumers' spending power, pushing them to cheaper food options.

One of the most significant growth drivers that caused a surge in demand for maas and buttermilk was affordability.

"This product is viewed as an affordable beverage alternative consumed with meals, to which consumers migrate to during tougher economic times, particularly focused on the larger 2 litre pack size," said Musingadi.

Another factor that benefitted the maas and buttermilk dairy categories was excess milk directed towards powders, cheese, and then buttermilk and maas.

This further resulted in prices for these products showing a reduction during the second quarter of 2020, in turn pushing up demand.

"Overall industry selling prices of buttermilk and maas declined in 2020. General consensus is that shifts towards larger family packs which are lower priced per litre, along with restricted sales through on consumption outlets where prices are relatively higher, contributed to the reduced overall industry selling prices seen in 2020," BMi said.

As lockdown regulations become laxer, buttermilk and maas are forecast to remain static in 2021, with the expectation being that consumers will shift their spending to other types of beverages, it said.

However, as price increases and input costs rise, consumers may ditch products in this category, said BMi.

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