Guinness UDV, the Diageo subsidiary in South Africa is withdrawing Smirnoff Ice, the country's most successful ready-to-drink (RTD) and replacing it with a lemon-based Vodka alternative called Smirnoff Spin.

This has baffled some consumers and industry observers alike because of the high profile and obvious approval given to the product since its launch two years ago.

The launch of Smirnoff Spin nationally over the next two months falls perfectly with the summer season down south.

It is believed in some industry circles that the reason for the withdrawal and replacement exercise has more to do with the fact that locally produced Smirnoff Ice fetched much higher prices in the UK and EU than the R8 to R12 it was retailed at in South Africa and this formed part of a bigger illegal liquor problem in the industry.

This "parallel trading" was said to be more of a problem than the obvious profits derived from sales in South Africa for a brand such as Smirnoff Ice.

Gary May, MD of Diagio subsidiary, has denied that that was the primary reason for the culling of the popular drink.

The newest offering comes in a clear embossed bottle with blue and silver livery.

He sited a cluttering of that segment of the RTD division, with about a dozen smoky Ice imitators and the need to develop new tastes in an ever-changing market.

According to AC Nielsen figures Smirnoff Ice had a value share of 21.8% of the 18m case - R1.9bn a year RTD market, followed by Archers Aqua, also from the same stable.

May said as leaders in the industry, the group recognised the importance of on-going innovation around consumer trends.

"We wanted to transform our record breaking Smirnoff Ice into a proposition that was more adult and sophisticated with broad appeal. It has been designed to appeal to all existing Smirnoff Ice consumers and attract new male consumers," he said.