Fever-Tree is the world’s leading producer of premium tonics and mixers. As the international brand makes its first forays into Africa, how does it ensure quality, flavour and choice is always on the menu?
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the outlook for premium spirits and gin is promising. There’s an increasing interest from consumers to mix drinks at home, while new craft and local gin brands complement the growth of larger international brands.
When Fever-Tree launched in 2005, mixers had been neglected for decades and naturally sourced ingredients had been replaced by artificial sweeteners.
“People were paying high prices for premium spirits but had no choice but to drown them with poor quality mixers,” says Tad Mather, regional manager for Africa and the Middle East. “If ¾ of your long drink is the mixer, it stands to reason that your mixer has equal importance.”
Tad’s been tasked with growing the business in South Africa, where the company sees a real opportunity for the brand. With the recent premiumisation of the gin category and explosion of craft brands on the South African market, consumers are seeking out premium mixers to drink with premium gins and other spirits.
This is the sweet spot Fever-Tree has been waiting for. “As pioneers of the premium mixer category we’re perfectly placed to make the most of this recent shift in demand towards premium mixers in South Africa,” Tad says.
Tonic of origin
Nothing but the best will do if you wish to stay in the top spot, and quality ingredients have been at the centre of the Fever-Tree brand since day one. “We went back into the history books to find finest and most authentic ingredients we could.
Then it was out into the unknown to track them down, everywhere from the Democratic Republic of Congo where we found the highest quality quinine for our Tonic Water, to the Ivory Coast and India for our Gingers that go into our Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale,” Tad explains.
“We’re truly going to the ends of the earth to source the finest most authentic ingredients we can, to create a premium mixer range that justifies our premium position in the market.”
The gin category has been growing rapidly in both volume and value over last five to six years in South Africa. But the real excitement is about the driver of this growth: the underlying trend of craft gin which has exploded to more than 100 local gin brands on the South African market.
According to Tad, the market dynamics are very similar to the UK gin market, where Fever-Tree rose to become the top tonic brand by market value share since launching there in 2005. “This is fundamentally why we believe we can replicate the success we’ve had in our UK market here in South Africa.”
“We believe the product range we have available on the South African market offers consumers unique flavours and exciting alternatives to what is currently on the market, which we think is exactly what consumers are seeking within the mixers category as they experiment with different premium gins and spirits.”
Tonic into Africa
Fever-Tree appointed Truman & Orange in 2021 as its distribution partner in South Africa. “They’re the ideal partner to help us explore new opportunities and support our growth,” Tad says.
During the pandemic, they launched a range of products aimed at local consumers stocking up at grocery and liquor stores for home use, including Fever-Tree’s 8-pack of 150 ml cans and the 500 ml glass bottle with Sweet Raspberry Tonic Water, made with British Raspberries and Rhubarb.
“Our focus is very much on cracking the South African market before we look at other opportunities across Africa,” Tad says.
“Partnering with Truman & Orange simplifies doing business in Africa, but also gives us the opportunity to look at other markets in Africa due their distribution coverage. For example, we recently launched Fever-Tree in Kenya through Truman & Orange, and I’m sure we will look at other opportunities when the time is right.”
Although spirits take market share from beer and wine, the trend reveals how consumers value authentic, high-quality, premium drinks with a focus on provenance and experience.
Consumers who learnt to mix drinks at home during lockdown are seeking out more adventures and are willing to try out a wide range of flavours.
“We see that they are experimenting more as they return to the on-trade,” Tad says. “We’re supporting this trend by offering a versatile range of mixers to complement different spirits and occasions.”
Fever-Tree’s business model is built on innovation, with new mixers, flavours, and ideas in constant development. “We believe innovation plays a key role in leveraging the growing premium gin and tonic opportunity here in South Africa,” Tad says.
“We’ve recently launched our Ginger range here in South Africa, a Ginger Beer and Ginger Ale designed to pair perfectly with premium dark spirits.” Their Clementine Tonic Water, made with Clementines from Spain, will probably be introduced next. South Africa may even have some choice ingredients of its own to contribute.
“What is so exciting is that we’ve really just scratched the surface,” he adds.