South Africa’s Trendy Middle Class Sends Whiskey Sales Soaring

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By CultureBanx Team

  • U.S. whiskey imports to South Africa grew to over $10M last year
  • The minimum wage is less than $2 an hour in South Africa

Whiskey is on the rise and has now become the most consumed spirit in South Africa, with 4.1 million people currently drinking it. As the economy starts to turn around so have sales of the liquor, which accounts for a third of the South African spirits market.

Why This Matters: The last four years of a stagnated economy in South Africa have left the whisky market with a glass half full, thanks to thrifty consumers and strangled spending. The two most popular whiskies in the country are Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Red Label that sells for around $13, and Pernod Ricard’s Jameson which costs about $20. While at first glance these prices may not seem very high, you have to consider the minimum wage is less than $2 an hour in South Africa.

Slowing economic growth over the past three years has hammered household incomes. Reuters reported after a recession in the first two quarters of 2017, growth is forecast by the central bank to reach 0.6% this year, not nearly enough to make a dent in the unemployment rate of 27.7%.

Whisky consumption had previously dropped, falling from a high of 43.2 million liters in 2014 to 38.7 million in 2016, data from industry monitor SAWIS shows. However, with the economy on the mend, U.S. whiskey imports to the country grew to over $10 million last year.

Situational Awareness: Despite a tough economic climate, South Africa rose to fifth in the world in 2015 as the largest export market for whiskey by volume. The only other countries out pacing them are the U.S., France, Spain and Mexico.

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