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SA ginger beer firm started in a garage now employs 200 and is on an expansion trail

Supa Ginja CEO Johan Pretorius.

Supa Ginja CEO Johan Pretorius.

Published Jul 7, 2022

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Covid-19 decimated entrepreneurs and small businesses, but not for Supa Ginja, a family-owned powder ginger beer business started in a North West garage, which now looks set to expand its footprint in Lesotho, eSwatini, Botswana, Namibia as well as Zambia.

Amid Covid, it forged a supplier deal with retailer Checkers subsidiary Shoprite, which led to exponential growth.

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Supa Ginja is a traditional ready-mixed ginger beer powder that, when combined with water and allowed to ferment, turns into a unique ginger beer drink. It caught the attention of the South African home-brewing market during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

One mixes 5kg of Supa Ginja powder into 50 litres of lukewarm water.

This as the global ginger beer market is set to witness an impressive growth rate of 7.1 percent over the forecast years of 2022 to 2032.

The ginger beer market size is anticipated to reach a valuation of around $9.3 billion (R148bn) by the end of year 2032 from the current valuation of $4.7bn in 2022, according the ginger beer market analysis report published by Future Market Insights.

It found that the global ginger beer market share is being driven by consumers’ shift away from calorie-dense beverages and toward lighter and less sugary beverages.

Additionally, the lockdown brought on by the epidemic increased product sales, supporting the market expansion through the off-trade distribution channel segment of the global ginger beer market.

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The same happened in South Africa.

During South Africa’s national lockdown when several alcohol bans shaved off billions from booze firms, retailers saw an increase in ingredients sold for the making of home-made brews, including ginger beer and pineapple beer.

The firm, which started with just three employees in a 32-square metre garage, now boasts more than 200 employees - a significant achievement and an indication of its rapid growth.

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Supa Ginja said it had enjoyed sustained growth post-Covid.

Although South Africa’s Covid-19 alcohol bans were a net positive for the company, Supa Ginja CEO Johan Pretorius described it as a “roller-coaster”.

“The demand for our product would spike during lockdown periods and then decline again after it was lifted, but what lockdown really did for us was to get the product’s name into the market. All the profit we made during lockdown was put into marketing, and that is where we really banked on our growth.”

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Ten employees work exclusively on the Shoprite account, Supa Ginja’s biggest corporate retail client.

Pretorius said: “Shoprite has given us a national footprint, which created many new jobs due to more traceability and quality control requirements. We also expanded our sales and admin teams to keep up with the rising demand and incoming orders.

“We are busy with a Shoprite listing to supply the whole of Africa, and we are also in talks to manufacture a house brand ginger beer powder for all the Shoprite stores,” he said.

Checkers gives entrepreneurs and small, medium, and micro-sized businesses access to economic opportunities by providing hundreds of suppliers with access to market via its newly launched Shoprite Next Capital business division.

Maude Modise, the general manager for Enterprise & Supplier Development at the group, said: “We want to further enhance the participation of small and emerging suppliers in our business, so Shoprite Next Capital is focused on their specific needs and how best we can assist them.

“This new division will provide SMMEs with easier entry into the group’s retail market with direct access to buyers that understand their needs combined with personalised growth plans that will assist suppliers to scale up gradually.”

It has seen businesses like Supa Ginja grow from being small to fully-fledged suppliers.

According to Pretorius, supplying a large retailer like Shoprite requires the company to deliver multiple small orders within a short time. But the opportunities far outweigh the new challenges.

BUSINESS REPORT

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