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LOCAL CRAFT DISTILLERY INDUSTRY GROWING

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MBABANE – Micro distilleries, also known as boutique or craft distilleries, are slowly becoming viable in the country and the consequence has been beneficial on many levels including job creation.

A number of local players are tapping into the industry and exploring the lucrative spirits industry.  In recent years, all over Africa, there has been a big upsurge of craft distillers many of whom are producing exceptional products today. It has taken plenty of investment and, by most accounts, many joyous hours of learning to reach the great range and quality of spirits now available in the continent. Eswatini has not been left behind in the formation of the industry.

Producer

Such industry players include Jackalberry Distillery, Eswatini’s first small-batch craft distiller. Jackalberry is the producer of Imbali gin, Tatama Premium Vodka, Cosmos Colour changing Gin and many other products. A recent addition to the distiller’s product range is the ‘Spirit of Eswatini’, a gin manufactured using locally sourced marula fruits. According to Kirstie Van Rensburg, the Product Developer and co-founder of Jackalberry Distillery, the company works with local suppliers when sourcing raw materials and the aim is to empower these suppliers and help improve their livelihoods. “The Spirit of Eswatini is a gin we manufactured using the pride of Eswatini – the marula fruit. It has taken us a long time to perfect the recipe and create this masterpiece,” she said.

Perfect

The recent Buganu festival at Buhleni Royal Residence was the perfect stage for the gin’s launch as it saw the company introducing the product for the first time to the public.
According to Van Rensburg, the craft industry in the country is growing as more layers are showing interest in tapping into the space. She went on to mention that the COVID-19 pandemic unsettled the industry mainly because it was still in its infancy stage. “Our E3 million investment into the business was almost affected. We are still seeing signs of recovery since the pandemic as alcoholic beverages were restricted at that time. We were somewhat unlucky as that was around the time our company started operating,” she said.
When asked about the prospects of exporting their products to other countries, Van Rensburg highlighted that the company recently obtained an export permit and is already in the process of securing reliable markets in other countries. “We are an authentically African company and our wish is to penetrate the African market first before going overseas; our wish is for Africa to experience the product first before other continents,” she added.

Importance

The product developer highlighted the importance of first establishing a base in Eswatini before expanding to other countries. “Our products are already available in most alcohol retailers in the country and the newly launched vodka will be joining the catalogue soon,” she said. Van Rensburg went on to state the authenticity of Jackalberry as a proudly Swati company by mentioning that they were looking to employ more emaSwati as the company grows. “We currently have three key employees and a number of casual bar staff for functions. We have an amazing team and people often comment on the strength of the team,” she said. In the Global Beverage Market, the Craft Spirit Industry is one of the fastest-growing segments in the world, in terms of the number of producers and the number of products and sales available. According to research by Statista.

Growth

The Spirits market in South Africa has been experiencing steady growth in recent years. Customer preferences for premium and craft spirits, as well as the increasing popularity of cocktails, have contributed to this development. Additionally, local special circumstances such as the country’s rich history of wine production and the growing tourism industry have also played a role in shaping the market. Customer preferences in the South African Spirits market have shifted towards premium and craft offerings. Consumers are increasingly willing to spend more on high-quality spirits, seeking unique flavour profiles and artisanal production methods. This trend is in line with global market patterns, as consumers worldwide are becoming more discerning and knowledgeable about spirits.

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