Brewing company Distell expands into cannabis products. Picture: Supplied
Brewing company Distell expands into cannabis products. Picture: Supplied

Brewing company Distell expands into cannabis products

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Jan 21, 2021

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Distell, one of Africa's leading producers of spirits, wines, ciders, and ready-to-consume beverages, and Invenfin, a venture capital company situated in Stellenbosch, have announced a partnership with Releaf Pharmaceuticals to share ownership in South Africa’s leading cannabis wellness brand, ReThink.

Distell and Invenfin have each purchased a 20% stake in the ReThink brand and range of products to establish a three-way partnership, with a vision of building a compelling portfolio of cannabis-based brands across product categories in this growing sector.

In an interview with Caroline Snyman, who is the innovation leader at Distell, she said as part of staying abreast of global industry shifts, they have been watching the deregulation of certain aspects relating to cannabis, across various markets, for the past two to three years.

Snyman said, in South Africa, limited usage of CBD was legalised in October 2019 and this opened up the opportunity for them to explore suitable partnership opportunities with compliant and certified entities in South Africa.

“Globally, cannabis is poised for growth as key countries start to deregulate certain aspects of its usage.

“This comes at a time when there is also a heightened global trend towards wellness and conscious consumption, which this investment plays well to.

“The estimated global market size for cannabis is $166bn, while the African market is estimated to be worth R44 billion,” she said.

“ReThink was launched in October 2019 with a range of CBD daily oils and capsules, followed shortly after by a range of ReThink CBD containing teas and shots.

“The ReThink skincare range was launched in November 2020. The new partnership platform provides an opportunity to expand into new product categories in the future, and Distell’s strength as a beverage player will play a role here.

“This plays to our overall innovation strategy, and future product launches will be executed appropriately, as evidenced by key innovations launched in 2020, added Snyman.

Releaf Pharmaceuticals managing director and responsible pharmacist, Martin Coetzer said the backing of two reputable investors in Distell and Invenfin was a strong vote of confidence in the company’s future which would enable it to step up the development of new opportunities for cannabis wellness in South Africa and beyond.

“This is an incredibly exciting partnership that will help us to build ReThink’s portfolio of cannabis-based products.

“Invenfin brings vast experience in venture capital and brand building, as well as international commercialisation, to the partnership, with past investments in consumer brands with strong South African provenance, such as BOS iced tea, Amajoya Sweets, De Villiers Chocolate, and Island Way Sorbet,” said Coetzer.

Chief executive at Invenfin Stuart Gast said the company is pleased to have closed this investment during the lockdown. Gast said they see ReThink as an attractive opportunity to build brands by leveraging the established expertise and market leadership position within ReThink and its partners.

“The business has big growth plans in a sector that is still in the very early stages of development, and we believe the team has the experience, vision and technical skills to achieve those objectives. Covid-19 has brought wellness even more rapidly into people’s daily consciousness, and having access to trusted products in that space will be increasingly key for South African consumers,” he said.

When South Africa's constitutional court legalised the personal use of cannabis in 2018, CNS Beverage and Food Supply, which is a division of the CNS Group saw an opportunity and became the exclusive importers and distributors of the Cannabis Energy Drink, which is manufactured in The Netherlands.

“The beverage has been making some impact and distribution has gained momentum in some areas.

“A marketer of the beverage said the beverage is not harmful at all nor does it make you high. It gives you energy like any other energy drink.

In the same year, Poison City Brewing, a Durban based beer company, created their own cannabis beer called The Poison Cannabis IPA and the Durban Poison Cannabis Lager.

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