April 6th, 2010
11:33 AM GMT
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Two years ago, a visiting family member who lives in the United States commented on the number of alcohol advertisements plastered across Johannesburg.

I had never really noticed – but since then I have been watching the billboards, posters and TV advertisements – and, yes, a large proportion of advertising in this country seems to focus on drinking, drinks and getting drunk.

And it’s not just the ad men who are guilty of peddling some false nectar. South Africa is a nation of drinkers.

This is, of course, great news for the brewing companies. Over the years, founded on the heavy drinking habits of its citizens, South African Breweries (SAB Miller) has become a global brewing giant. Nowadays, it is one of the big, worldwide drinks companies with a history of aggressive multi-million-dollar acquisitions into Latin America, the United States, China and Eastern Europe. Last year, SAB Miller’s global beer division made $15 billion in revenue.

Now SAB Miller is being challenged on its home turf.  Diageo, Heineken and Namibian breweries, in a joint venture, have just opened a huge $415 million brewery in Johannesburg, which will churn out Heineken and Amstel in competition to SAB Miller’s Castle and Black Label beers.

In the taverns, bars and drinking dens across the country, the "beer wars" will be fought right down to the last drop. This is because the South African beer market is lucrative and particularly appealing in the current global economic climate. It seems that even though the economy has contracted and people have lost their jobs, South Africans keep on drinking. A lot.

Emerging markets, like South Africa, are prime targets for the world’s drinks companies because of a heady blend of rapid social change, a growing percentage of young, urban drinkers and growing economic improvement.

Of course, South Africa is particularly important this year, with the FIFA World Cup to be played here in June. Over the winter, hundreds of thousands of beer-quaffing football fans will be visiting South Africa’s drinking establishments.

So, the competition will not just be on the football pitches.  The "battle of beers" will not be for the faint hearted as the big breweries go head-to-head over who commands the biggest slice of the South African drinking market.

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Clemsa

    I have read that in Denmark brewery workers are striking to keep the right to drink during work hours!!! why then South Africans are drunks if they drink after hours and on weekends? mmm this is one of the stories to badmouth us..

    April 8, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  2. Marcos Lucena

    Yeahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let's drink......... and for me, who's gonna be at the Word Cup will be just perfect specially if Brazil's win the tournament............!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then I will celebrate with a lot of beer's..........

    April 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Michael Deyzel

    "Budweiser" is the official sponsored Beer of and at the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but it is a product that is not sold in Southern Africa at all...an opportunity or a lost opportunity?

    April 8, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  4. Safa


    April 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  5. dean

    Actually, budweiser is most famous in the U.S. domestic market. Most international drinkers will probably favor the heavier taste of european brands over the watered down taste of budweiser.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  6. Rori

    Oh Please!! America and Britain are full of underage drinkers, and bar/pub mentality is status quo that side, and you're saying South Africa is a nation of drinkers? I agree with Clemsa – sounds like some baseless article that is trying to badmouth SA.
    I guess just another person trying to jump on the bandwagon of pointing out all things "wrong" just before the world cup. Next!

    April 9, 2010 at 6:05 am |
  7. Chris

    @ Michael Deyzel... Budweiser is sold in SA! but you will find it in local bottle stores and VERY few bars. but i understand what you are saying.

    Good luck to those visiting SA during the FIFAWC'10, there is ALOT of hostility at the moment and songs about killing the 'whites' are rife including the sending out of a British Journalist because he was white by the ANCYL president, Julius Malema...

    Good luck SA, Good luck visitors.

    Stay safe – DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE... and above all – Enjoy SA while it lasts!


    April 9, 2010 at 6:15 am |
  8. Gys Pretorius

    Response to Michael Deyzel. Budweiser is readily available for purchase everywhere in our country, but why drink Badwater (pronounced "butt-water" in Afrikaans – meaning tub water in English) when you can drink the best that SA can offer (http://www.sablimited.co.za/sablimited/view/sablimited/en/page43) at a cheaper price because it is produced locally and tastes way better than Badwater. My personal favorites are Black Label, Hansa Marzen Gold and Grolsch. Castle is also a big favorite amongst a large group of people in SA. Castle also offers 3 different flavors of beer in our country – Castle Lager, Castle Light and Castle Milk Stout. The latter is a heavy dark malt with the likes of a Guinness. Hope you guys enjoy the trip to our country and fall in love with our world famous beers :)

    April 9, 2010 at 6:30 am |
  9. bluesman87

    I live in Sa and i hope this extra competition helps keep the beer prices low for the world cup- my advise to tourists drink Black Label!!! Its my beer and its the best cheapest and strongest and has won the most awards!! Screw the light beer bud that seems to be so popular its taking somthing made for manny and sissyfying it . Shapa one ZAMAlek Skohkho!!!

    April 9, 2010 at 9:48 am |
  10. Ngozi floxy

    Drinking is okay,but 2 over drink is another thing which i did nt support,if one is drinking let he or she drink responsible.thanks

    April 9, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  11. Shaz

    If you want to see a nation that drinks, come to the UK, they're a real bunch of alcoholics here – right from 9 years to 70 years of age!

    Don't always criticise South Africa, I'm sick of it already!!! I don't drink but I'll support SAB Miller over any American beer anyday!

    The Americans push their way in wherever they can......they are just SO overrated.

    April 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  12. deepwater805

    Free Beer!!!!! Tomorrow.....

    April 11, 2010 at 4:04 am |
  13. Evandro dos Santos

    Bebam com moderação! Bebida e desporto são incompatíveis, apesar de caminharem sempre juntos.

    April 11, 2010 at 5:00 am |
  14. Egbu Yugo

    in Africa,drinking is a part of life

    April 11, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  15. iyke peter onu

    hmmmm. Beer is good especially at the world but its going to be more good if any african country carries the cup cheers nigeria

    April 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  16. maty


    April 12, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  17. ur grl ndi

    nuthing wrng wit drinking, it just proves how much fun it is to live in South Africa. So CHEERS

    April 12, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  18. David

    The LAST time i checked SAB owns Budweiser. Check the Budweiser shares

    April 13, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  19. Johann

    Rori and Clemsa. maybe you didn't see the name of the person who wrote this article. Robyn Curnow is one of SA's top journalists and I have no doubt in my mind that she is just as proud of South Africa hosting the World Cup as millions of other South Africans. So why would she "badmouth" her own country?? The only thing wrong here Rori is you and people like you "guessing".

    April 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  20. South-African

    Black Label,Black Label,Black Label.
    Castle is what you get in your toilet when you had to much Black Label the night before.
    Americans are ignorant and they think that if it's not made in the USA it's not good,why do they think we are drinking so much beer?? Because our beer is AWESOME!!!!!

    April 19, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  21. Marco

    "...the heavy drinking habits of its citizens..."
    " It seems that even though the economy has contracted and people have lost their jobs, South Africans keep on drinking. A lot."

    Generalistic comments. The subject matter is too complex to make such bold statements. In a country of such diversity, are we all heavy drinkers? Do we all lift up the glass after we have had a bad day?

    April 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  22. Marco

    Rori and Clemsa. I agree.

    April 19, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  23. Rydell

    Under the sun and heat sometimes BEER is cool for all and less alcoholic by volume.Castle is 4% alcholic by volume so guys enjoy south African beer.Welcome !

    April 20, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
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    April 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
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