Scottish drink firms set sights on African market

With the result of last month's vote to leave the European Union continuing to send shockwaves through the markets, Scottish drink companies are turning their attention further afield.

Famous Grouse drafted in Pilot Fish Media to raise its Facebook profile in Africa. Picture: Contributed

Latest statistics from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) show that South Africa is the eight-largest overseas market for Scotland’s national drink, with exports worth £122 million last year, although that was down 10 per cent on the figure of £136m recorded for 2014.

Diageo, the world’s biggest whisky distiller, said in January that Scotch sales in South Africa and Angola had been hit by challenging economic conditions, but its Johnnie Walker brand enjoyed 30 per cent growth in Cameroon during the six months to the end of December, with Johnnie Walker Blue putting in a “strong performance” in Nigeria.

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Privately-owned rival Edrington, which counts Cutty Sark, Highland Park and The Macallan among its stable of brands, has said that its Famous Grouse blend has delivered growth in several emerging markets including sub-Saharan Africa, a region home to almost one billion people.

Pilot Fish Media founder Stephen Gorman. Picture: Contributed

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Edinburgh-based social media marketing agency Pilot Fish Media is among a handful of firms helping UK companies to tap into Africa’s digital economy, and recently picked up a gold award for international marketing for its work with Famous Grouse in the continent at the Marketing Society Star Awards.

Pilot Fish founder Stephen Gorman said: “We work with local people on the ground in Africa to gain a greater local insight, and this local expertise and knowledge has been key to how we tailor global content messages and campaigns that resonate on a local level.

“We have been working with The Famous Grouse in Africa for just over two years now raising brand awareness, telling the global brand story, supporting offline activity and ultimately winning loyal new fans through an innovative and extremely cost-effective Facebook strategy and were delighted to be awarded Gold for our efforts.”

Pilot Fish Media founder Stephen Gorman. Picture: Contributed

Facebook last year opened its first African office in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, as it seeks to expand on the 120 million users it has across the continent. Nigeria and Kenya account for about 20 million monthly users, with mobile devices accounting for the vast bulk of traffic.

“A Facebook page becomes as important, or more important, than a corporate website in Africa,” said Gorman.

“But you can’t just have a Facebook page, you have to have a Facebook page that is local and relevant to that market.”

And it’s not just Scotland’s whisky brands that are seeking to muscle in on the African market.

Earlier this year, Tennent’s Lager owner C&C Group said plans were in place to increase distribution across a number of other countries following an “encouraging” response to the launch of Tennent’s into South Africa.

“The export market for Scottish alcohol is understandably dominated by a focus on whisky,” said C&C, which today warned that the weak pound risks wiping out the benefits it has enjoyed from a pick-up in trading.

“From what we are learning, the desire for authentic high-quality Scottish brands travels across the alcohol space and we are seeing increased potential for the Tennent’s brand in new markets.”