by Julie Pughe-Parry (@pugheparables) Carmen Mohapi, the recently appointed marketing director of Heineken South Africa, doesn’t believe that the rise of craft beer poses much of a threat to the traditional beer brands.
South African consumers have been under substantial financial pressure as of late. With an increase in VAT and ever-climbing petrol prices, the average citizen is left with less room in their budget for play. Yet, even in this period of economic distress, many South Africans still choose to spend a portion of their disposable income on the nation’s favourite alcoholic beverage: beer. However, with less to spend, consumers have become more selective in their purchases, opening a door for the craft beer market locally.
Craft beer has become increasingly available since the rise of the industry in 2011. More recently, the craft-gin craze has been sweeping through SA, with new labels appearing on the shelves at every visit to the liquor store. Craft-alcohol products are likely to come with a higher price tag, as they’re not able to be produced at the same scale as mainstream industries. Craft culture also involves an array of unique flavours and processes, offering the consumer a new experience with each drink.
But the trend for premium products in both the beer and spirits industries has proven a particularly difficult nut to crack for big beer producers, according to new research released by MarketLine, with almost all significant growth in the industry coming from craft producers.
Mohapi feels that the movement towards craft shows the consumer’s growing appreciation for complex flavours and tastes, and that this presents new opportunities for the Heineken brand. “Consumers are wanting to try new things and experiment a little bit more; that keeps us on our toes and makes sure that we stay relevant,” she says.
Heineken is also realising that it’s about more than just relevance; it’s about igniting a love for the brand and finding a place for said brand in the hearts and lives of SA consumers. To achieve this, she stresses that brands must begin understanding their consumers, anticipating their needs and following through on the promises made to them.
Before making the move to Heineken SA, she had gained experience working within SAB and Unilever. She left her position as skin care lead for Africa at Unilever to re-enter the beer market with Heineken SA — and she’s not looking back. Drawn to the unique challenges and the dynamic quality of the SA alcohol industry, she’s is ready to take the brand into its next chapter.
Along with Mohapi as marketing director, Heineken SA has also welcomed a new managing director (Gerrit van Loo), a new HR director (Mandisi Feni), and a new corporate affairs director (Millicient Maroga) to the team. With such big changes happening at the top, some worry has arisen among long-time employees and those on the ground floor. The leadership team strives to move forward by building on the foundations already established by the brand and by recognising the importance of addressing employee concerns. “As leaders, it’s about ensuring that we continue the momentum and provide clarity to our people internally,” says Mohapi.
With a new vision for the brand and much on the horizon, it’s a new dawn within Heineken SA. Consumers might be counting their pennies and tightening their purse strings, but the rise of the craft industry shows they still appreciate great flavour. With high-quality products crafted with the most-discerning palates in mind, Mohapi is confident about going forward with the Heineken SA brand: “It feels like we’re on the wave of something that’s going to be really interesting. Being a part of that is what is so exciting to me,” she says.
Julie Pughe-Parry (@pugheparables) graduated from Vega Cape Town with a BA in creative brand communications in 2017. A copywriter by day and freelance content writer by night, she continues to pursue her passion for the craft of written word.”
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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