gin beer
The sale of craft non-alcoholic beer and gin and tonics has skyrocketed.
  • The sale of craft non-alcoholic beer and gin and tonics has skyrocketed during SA's lockdown.
  • The sale of liquor has been banned during the country's hard lockdown to fight the coronavirus.
  • Pick n Pay says they’ve noticed a growing interest in non-alcoholic beverages from health-conscious consumers.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider South Africa.

The sale of craft non-alcoholic beer and gin and tonics has skyrocketed during South Africa’s hard lockdown. 

Under South Africa’s lockdown regulations, the unconditional sale of liquor will only be permitted when the country reaches Level 2 of its "risk adjusted strategy" to fight Covid-19. But products with less than 0.5% alcohol - officially classified as alcohol-free in the Liquor Products Act - are still allowed. And a few, mainly in the craft sector, have been quick to capitalise.

Johannes Le Roux, founder of non-alcoholic gin and tonic drink The Duchess, says their year-on-year sales have increased significantly in recent weeks.

“For April, and during the lockdown, we’ve seen a 150% increase in sales year on year, which is quite substantial,” Le Roux told Business Insider South Africa. 

Online sales for The Duchess, driven through channels like YuppieChef and Takealot, have also increased dramatically. 

“We’ve seen our online sales skyrocket. They’ve increased from 5% of our total sales, to about 25%,” says Le Roux.

See also: 'How to make alcohol.' South Africans are frantically searching for recipes, Google says

Signal Hill Products, which manufactures a non-alcoholic beer in their Devil’s Peak range, says they’ve also seen a large spike in sales - most likely from people who would not necessarily have chosen non-alcoholic beers prior to lockdown restrictions. 

“We have seen a significant increase in demand for both our Devil’s Peak non-alcoholic variants Hero and Hero Twist of Citrus,” general manager for marketing Elizanne Rauch told Business Insider South Africa. 

Rauch says their month on month increase for this product from March to April was more than 350%.

The increased interest has also opened new channels for the growing brewery.

“Not only have we experienced increased sales in our regular stockists Devil’s Peak Hero, we have also seen more outlets list our product nationally,” says Rauch.

See also: Want to make beer from pineapples? If you get it wrong, you may get ill – or maimed

Both Rauch and Le Roux credit the spike in sales to consumers looking for substitutes for their depleted alcohol supplies - and some quick product repositioning by supermarkets.

“At first we were a bit skeptical that we would see any huge increase, because liquor stores are traditionally our biggest clients,” says Le Roux. “But what we’ve also managed to do working very closely with the retailers is to move our products from the liquor stores over into the grocery stores.”

A spokesperson for Checkers told Business Insider said this product repositioning actually started at the end of last year - but it is one that has paid off during lockdown.

“Non-alcoholic beverages were moved into the beverage aisle in Checkers supermarkets last year. There has been a tremendous spike in the sale of non-alcoholic beverages during the national lockdown.”

gin beer
The sale of craft non-alcoholic beer and gin and tonics has skyrocketed.

Pick n Pay says they’ve noticed a growing interest in non-alcoholic beverages from health-conscious consumers.

“This trend has allowed room for creativity and experimentation in this category, and it is no surprise that many customers have turned to this varied range during lockdown,” a spokesperson told Business Insider South Africa. 

“Customers are really enjoying the range and non-alcoholic beer has been very popular. The non-alcohol gin we launched last year, called Abstinence, has also been a clear winner. Many customers have opted to purchase these items online for convenience.”

Le Roux also says some of the increased market share in the craft alcohol-free space is because of a limited response from the big breweries in this country.

“Heineken and SAB have not been able to produce their alcohol free offerings, so that’s why you’re seeing such a strong presence from the independent brands like Devil’s Peak and the Duchess,” he says.

Neither company responded to requests for comment on this matter.

See also: Anchor stops 'beer yeast' sales - and scrambles to keep up with massive demand from bakers

With best guesses that South Africa’s Level 2 lockdown phase is still some time away, stock might become an issue for the smaller suppliers - but both The Duchess and Devil’s Peak say they have enough stock to keep them going - for now. 

Signal Hill Products says there’s enough stock available for now but “will determine production requirements as sales materialise”.

The Duchess has redirected stock they’d produced for the export market into local channels in order to keep up - and they will soon have to fire up their production lines.

“We are producing again this month,” says Le Roux, “because if sales continue to increase at a rate of 150%, then obviously we’ll be running out of stock.”

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