Festive season booze supply: 'It's not going to be dry', says Savanna maker after shortages

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Demand for Savanna cider has surged in the past year.
Demand for Savanna cider has surged in the past year.
Distell
  • The alcohol industry, which has begun its recovery from Covid-19 related bans, now has to contend with local supply shortages and shipment delays.
  • Distell spokesperson Frank Ford said demand for Savanna has doubled in the past year, but the ban on liquor sales, glass shortage and global supply chain issues proved to be obstacles in meeting that demand.
  • The glass product manufacturing industry has also been impacted by shortages.



Savanna maker Distell is hard at work to ensure that it has enough supply to meet demand ahead of the festive season, following a shortage of South Africa’s beloved cider.

In addition to Savanna, Distell produces Hunter’s, Esprit and Bernini, as well as wines and spirits. And although South Africa’s total ban on alcohol sales has been lifted, like its competitors, Distell is still feeling the impact, which has been compounded by global supply chain shortages and shipment delays linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

As a result, many Savanna lovers have been finding that their favourite beverage, be it alcoholic or non-alcoholic, is in short supply.

Distell spokesperson Frank Ford said demand for Savanna has doubled in the past year, but the ban on liquor sales, glass shortage and global supply chain issues proved to be obstacles in meeting this demand.

"It’s not a great story, but it’s a nice problem to have," Ford said.

And while it’s been a challenging time, he said glass maker Consol, which supplies the company with glass bottles, has been "fantastic" in trying to accommodate Distell.

With regards to whether Savanna drinkers will be able to quench their thirst during the busy festive season, Ford said the company is working on ensuring that there will be enough supply.

"It’s not going to be dry," he said.

The group is working on expanding Savanna’s bottling capacity, with an investment of R300 million for an additional line. 

Ford said the setback was temporary, and although the group could use the bottling lines of other brands like Esprit, to compensate for Savanna’s capacity issue, the cider needs to have its own dedicated line because that is where the growth is.  

Consol confirmed that it has been impacted by the availability of glass.

"This is a glass industry shortage (it is not just Consol that is affected) which is the result of the various lockdowns and alcohol bans last year, and the current glass supply shortage is impacting all categories," said Consol in a written response. 

The glass bottle manufacturer said supply was recovering to pre-Covid-19 levels despite lower growth expectations, pandemic-related issues and a weaker economy. 

"However, one major consequence of the extended lockdowns last year was Consol having to shut production and losing more than 100 000 tons, or 12% of total output, reducing the company’s ability to build vital stocks for future supply to all market categories," said Consol. 

Earlier this year, the glass product maker was forced to suspend its R1.5 billion facility expansion in Nigel, Johannesburg, due to the bans. It has since reinstated the expansion that will result in an additional 100 000 tons of new production capacity and will be completed between April and May 2022. 

Savanna is not the only brand struggling, says Lucky Ntimane, convenor of the National Liquor Traders.

"The supply chain issues are not only restricted to Savanna but [other] liquor manufacturers are going through the same thing," Ntimane said, saying some traders had been obliged to ration beverages.

The liquor traders convenor added that the alcohol bans also played a role, saying traders continue to pay the price. 

"This is really a slap in the face of traders who are dependent on the availability of stock to aid their recovery efforts. We call on government to really do away with these alcohol [restrictions] and consider lifting the lockdown regulations so we can return  to our normal lives," he said. 

Ntimane further opined that another ban will kill the sector which now has to contend with supply chain issues.

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