Cape Town - With more than 21 000 signatures on its petition, the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) is calling for beer to be sold at grocery shops, but it’s unclear if this would have any impact.
The National Liquor Act prohibits the sale of alcohol other than natural wine at grocery stores and supermarkets.
BASA says this needs to change as it limits consumer choice and creates an uneven playing field for passionate brewers.
Patricia Pillay, chief executive officer of BASA, said beer is a part of South African culture and tradition, and it is also the drink of choice for a majority of South Africans. However, current national and provincial legislation restricts a significant aspect of consumer choice: the absence of beer, including unique craft beers, from regular store shelves.
“BASA is committed to continuing to work with the government and traders to promote safe and responsible drinking where beers are sold. Although the campaign has only been running for less than two weeks, we have received an overwhelming response.
“Already, close to 22 000 people have signed it. It shows that South Africans want expanded consumer choice. Many comments on social media have also expressed pride in the quality of our locally brewed beers,” said Pillay.
She said that by expanding beer’s availability on grocery store shelves, we can create new economic avenues, support job creation, and enhance local business opportunities. There are about 200 craft brewers across the country who are producing innovative, top-quality beers.
“Making their brews more accessible for consumers will support their continued growth. The beer industry is also a significant economic contributor, making up approximately 2% of South Africa’s GDP and supporting almost 250 000 jobs. Every one in 66 jobs in our country is supported by the beer sector in one way or another.
“People want to help support these jobs and livelihoods by signing the petition to get beers into grocers. Our industry is still slowly recovering from the enormous setbacks during the Covid alcohol bans; expanded access in stores will support this recovery as well,” said Pillay.
According to a report released by NielsenIQ SA earlier this year, many South Africans prefer beer over soft drinks, as the sale of beer has grown by 8% over the past year. It said this growth can be attributed to the ban on alcohol sales during Covid-19.
Statista.com also revealed that beer makes up the bulk of alcohol sales in the country. According to the site, sales of beer are expected to amount to more than R116 billion this year.
Although BASA believes that beer has the potential to grow the economy and create much-needed jobs if sold in grocery stores, some citizens believe that this has the potential to cause social problems such as alcohol abuse, and Lathoug Mokgotho is one of those citizens.
He said: “The same citizens who consume this beer are dying of this beer. Have you seen what this beer does to these people, especially young people? The future of this country is drowning in a pool of beer, and you’re begging them to consume it.”
The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition didn’t respond before going to press about whether the department would engage with BASA and the industry on this matter to consider changing the legislation.