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South Africa’s boozing habits revealed

| Wine and liquor

Data from the South African Wine Industry Information & Systems (Sawis) shows that South Africans are consuming 13.6% more alcohol than they were a decade ago.

According to Sawis, South Africans consumed a combined 4 billion litres of alcohol in 2015, totalling R96.5 billion worth of booze – this is up from about 3.5 billion litres in 2006, worth R46.9 billion.

Compared to 2014, alcohol volumes were up marginally by 1%, though total value brought in was up 6.5%, reflecting higher alcohol prices.

“The South African alcoholic beverage market is a mature market with little changes between beer and the other liquor categories,” Sawis said.

“(However) with a population growth of +2% and annual volume growth of only 1% the per capita, consumption is declining by at least 1% per year.”

Despite this, there have been some outstanding sectors – the domestic wine market has increased by 7.7% in 2015, particularly as there were new consumers in the sweet red and rosé sector, the group said.

South Africa remains a beer drinking nation, though, with beer sales totalling R52.7 billion in 2015, with 3.1 billion litres consumed. 77.7% of all alcohol consumed in 2015 was beer – while it accounts for 54.6% of the market share in terms of value.

The beer market, in terms of both volume and value is larger than all other alcohol categories combined.

South Africa’s favourite booze by volume (2015)



Volume (‘000 litres)

Value (R’000)



3 100 000

52 734 950


Ready To Drink Wine

424 500

12 634 555


Natural Wine

317 400

9 399 196



36 300

8 179 842



30 150

4 836 060


Fortified Wine

27 630

1 351 107



22 000

3 153 040



9 000

1 210 079


Sparkling Wine

7 900

818 598



6 100

1 164 307



5 750

892 400



1 200

134 796



3 987 930

96 508 931


Ready to drink wine (RTD) is the second biggest market, with 424 million litres consumed (worth R12.6 billion), followed by Natural wines (317.4 million litres at R9.4 billion).

All spirits, including gin, cane, brandy, vodka, whisky, rum and liqueurs, totalled 110.5 million litres consumed, at a value of R19.6 billion.

The other two categories are fortified wines (27.6 million litres valued at R1.35 billion) and sparkling wines (7.9 million litres valued at R818.6 million).

On an average cost per litre basis, this is how how South African alcohol stacks up:

  • Whisky – R225.34
  • Rum – R190.87
  • Brandy – R160.40
  • Vodka – R143.32
  • Liqueurs – R134.35
  • Gin – R115.20
  • Cane – R112.33
  • Sparkling Wine – R103.62
  • Fortified Wine – R48.90
  • RTD – R29.76
  • Natural Wine – R29.61
  • Beer – R17.01


South Africa’s drinking habits

According to Sawis’ projections, South Africa’s alcohol market is expected to grow by over 1% in 2016, though some markets will see a decline.

Notably, the group sees volumes of gin and vodka increasing by 10% and 20% respectively – but brandy, cane and whisky volumes are expected to decline, dragging the entire sector.

Natural wines, meanwhile, are expected to increase volumes by 7%.

Projections are based on historical trends, Sawis said.

According to data from the World Health Organization, South Africa has the highest alcohol consumption rate in Africa, and one of the highest in the world.

In 2014, alcohol consumption increased to 11 litres per capita from the 10.1 litres per capita recorded between 2003 and 2005.

Within the drinking population (ie, excluding abstainers), this equates to 27.1 litres of pure alcohol consumed per capita.

The global average is 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year.

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