The World Cup will afford a chink of spotlight for the countrys indigenous soft drinks brands.

The World Cup will afford a chink of spotlight for the country's indigenous soft drinks brands.

This week sees the FIFA World Cup kick off in South Africa. Whilst corporate sponsor The Coca-Cola Co looks set to score highly from the tournament, what of South Africa's indigenous soft brands? Annette Farr considers the opportunities the event will open up, both domestically and abroad.

Love it or loathe it, the World Cup is going to dominate our lives from kick-off this Friday (11 June) until the final whistle is blown on 11 July. South Africa, the rainbow nation, will morph into a riot of colour as football fans throng stadia to support their teams' endeavours to get to hold the coveted trophy. Arguably, though, one colour will dominate. Red. And not any old red, but The Coca-Cola Co's trademark red.

Coca-Cola leads the South African soft drinks scene and has invested huge sums of money supporting the tournament. The return on its investment is incalculable. With World Cup fever upon us, sponsorship consumer awareness at a global level will be at its highest.

Coca-Cola kicked off its sponsorship last September when the company first announced elements of its global campaign. African-inspired activity includes advertising featuring Roger Milla, the Cameroon footballer remembered for his celebratory dance during the 1990 tournament; Coca-Cola's music anthem featuring Somalian hip-hop artist K'Naan; the first recognition of the best player celebration carried out during the tournament, online activity, commemorative packaging and a Coke-sponsored world tour of the trophy itself in the run-up to the tournament.

Nevertheless, the event should be an opportunity for indigenous beverages and ingredients to shine.

Few outside the country will have heard of mageu, a traditional beverage which originated in the southern gold mining townships. Very much a drink of the people, mageu is a maize drink developed commercially from a traditional energy-giving worker staple enjoyed for generations. In recent times, brands such as Maggie's Original Mageu and Mageu Number 1 have established themselves as mainstream beverages.

Maggie’s Original Mageu is based in the Garankuwa region, to the north of Pretoria in South Africa. It was established on a small scale in 2006 by Maggie Mogase. “My recipe was first formulated by my grandmother, the late Mrs Sapula Pooe, during the famine of 1933,” she explains. With funding secured through the Small Enterprise Development Agency, the company has been able to increase production and spread its wings.

Maggie’s drink comes in plain, banana, strawberry, and pineapple and custard flavours, and is available both in sachets and in 250ml, 500ml, and 1-litre plastic bottles. It is already listed in many supermarket chains and other retail outlets. As it expands with investment, the company plans to access mageu markets in the mining regions, to list its product with catering companies and to begin to export beyond South Africa.

Mageu Number 1 is owned by the Foodcorp group. Using clever marketing and promotional initiatives Foodcorp has raised the profile both of this specific brand and of the new generation of commercialised mageu offerings. The latest campaign has linked with ComputaNet to take a cab – 39 minibus taxis, in fact.

The taxis, part of the Qantum fleet, have been transformed with wrap branding which promotes the range as ‘My Number 1 Power Drink’. The mobile billboards are covering routes in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the North West and Limpopo. Foodcorp launched the taxi project as part of a campaign to introduce a new variant, New Mageu Number 1 Smooth, as well as ensuring that the brand enjoys high awareness in what is becoming a competitive market.

Baobab is another Southern African secret, but perhaps not for long. Following EU Novel Foods approval, the exotic baobab fruit, rich in nutritional qualities and grown in Madagascar and mainland Africa, is now being marketed throughout Europe.

The off-white, powdery fruit pulp looks like sherbet and is said to have a tangy taste described as caramel pear with hints of grapefruit. Since baobab acts as a flavour enhancer, less sugar can be used in products, another benefit for the health conscious.

Baobab is supplied through a partnership between PhytoTrade Africa - the Southern African Natural Products Trade Association set up to help low-income, rural communities by developing ethical and sustainable trade in natural products - and Afriplex, a leading South African manufacturer of plant extracts.

Here's a further interesting development: last month, Pepsi Japan and Suntory Holdings released a special limited edition 'Pepsi Baobab' in Japan. The product’s bottle states the drink is “a refreshing cola bursting with openness” and features the image of the baobab tree towering over African land.

Pepsi Japan appears to be using the World Cup to help promote the product since, besides the bottle's overall African theme, the Pepsi Baobab website features eight international footballers.

Another new drink featuring baobab has also been launched to coincide with the World Cup. Swedish producer Spendrups has developed Loka Likes Africa, a flavoured water range which comes in three flavours: Mango & Marula, Baobab & Lemon, and Rooibos Mix.

Marula fruit pulp is reported to have up to four times the vitamin C of orange juice and, according to Marula Natural Products, is a clear choice for healthy juice drinkers. Studies show that marula fruit is high in potassium, calcium and magnesium. It has been used by local communities in Africa for generations to cure and prevent scurvy; the anti-scorbutic value of the fresh fruit makes it important to their base diet.

Rooibos is popular in South Africa as an iced tea variant as well as for making hot beverages. The South African Rooibos Council, for instance, is not only continuing a domestic promotion launched last year but also undertaking a campaign in Germany, where rooibos tea sells strongly.

Production of rooibos is likely to expand this year, with the expansion of a processing facility at Niewoudtville, Northern Cape. When the project is complete, it will be the second largest rooibos production unit in South Africa.

So, as far as soft drinks are concerned there's all to play for. Let's hope the World Cup will help extend the marketing and consumption of South Africa's own exotic and functional drinks beyond its shores.