South Africa is soon to have its own black-owned vodka brand. Four years in the making, Distinkt Vodka launches in the country in September this year.
The brand is 100% owned by four Kagiso entrepreneurs led by chemistry graduate and now distiller, Sibusiso Sibisi. The brand name, Distinkt is spelt with a K because, says Sibisi, it represents their place of birth and nurture, Kagiso a township in Johannesburg’s West Rand.
The company has just recently obtained certification by the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) which means that the vodka meets the bureau’s quality standards.
With Distinkt Vodka, the four entrepreneurs are hoping to get a share of South Africa’s liquor market which in 2009 was valued at R57.3 billion and is dominated by liquor giants including SAB Miller which produces Castle and Lion Larger, Miller as well as Peroni, the Distell Group which produces Three Ships Whisky, Oude Meester and Bisquit Cognac and Brandhouse Beverages which produces Cîroc, Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff.
It is time for Africans to consume African products
Distinkt is looking to break into a market that is saturated with international vodka brands. Sibisi says they are hoping to get African consumers to consume a locally made premium alcohol brand.
“We realised that there is a significant market opportunity for a proudly South African high-quality vodka, which is attractively priced and is also a premium brand,” he says.
“We believe it is time for Africans to consume what is made in Africa,” he adds.
Vodka is only the beginning for the liquor entrepreneurs. Sibisi says they are targeting vodka as their entry product into the local alcohol industry, and eventually, the rest of the African continent.
“It is crucial for us to get our marketing strategy right”
Learning the consumer market
Distinkt Vodka is targeting the affluent consumer and is aiming to win them over by offering a high-quality product and Sibisi says, because it is competitively priced, classy and subtly sexy they believe would appeal to their target market.
“What we have learned is that South Africans have become conscious of their surrounding, the products they consume and how it’s benefiting them as the consumer. We have also learned that they want quality products that they can identify with. So basically, it goes beyond vodka,” he says.
The plan to win over the market
Like many brands that are launching a new product in an already crowded market with very strong players, Sibisi says they know they will have their work cut out for them in trying to carve out a share of the market.
Sibisi says they are entering a market with virtually no local brand awareness and that is why they need to establish and cultivate a strong brand image.
“We have an opportunity to build everything from square one: brand, name, image and marketing strategies and that is a great opportunity.”
“It is crucial for us to get our marketing strategy right,” says Sibisi.
One of the ways that they plan to win over the market is to leverage the power of social media and celeb culture by bringing on brand ambassadors.
“We have approached a couple of celebrities to promote Distinkt Vodka. We want to place our Vodka not only as a drink of choice but as a lifestyle – a premium lifestyle.”
Sibisi says, “People follow other people, people who have influence, power and wealth, they want their lifestyles and they emulate their lifestyle.”
Another way they are doing this is by staying relevant and continuously interacting with their target market.
“Our goal is to place Distinkt Vodka front-and-centre in the minds of our consumers when they are thinking of buying premium vodka for their establishments, parties, special events, chillas and getaways. We have also created social media pages to interact with our consumers and have established a website for regular updates, news on Distinkt Vodka and lifestyle interactions.
“We will remain creative and we will never compromise on the quality of our product,” he says.