VENTURES: New Fizz At Bashew's
Recent Western Cape Business News
CAPE TOWN soft-drink bottler Bashew’s, with roots that go back as far as 1899, appears to be enjoying a new lease of life under new owners – most notably a newly established retail presence.
The original Bashew family relinquished ownership of the company in 1969 when they sold it to a Cape Town businessman Ismail Mammon. His son, Moosa took over the business after his father’s death in 1990 and sold it in 2009 to the current owners Zahir Williams and Mehboob Adam.
Williams is the former chief legal counsel in Africa for a multinational oil company and also the former CEO of a bio fuel company part owned by Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda Holdings.
Adam is a qualified pharmacist with more than 25 years experience in manufacturing and the supply of pharmaceuticals – and significantly owned a retail pharmacy situated right next to the Bashew factory in Bellville.
Bashew’s has built a cult following over four decades by delivering its distinctive 300ml returnable bottles in wooden crates door-to-door in neighbourhoods throughout Cape Town as well as outlying towns such as Paarl, Worcester, Swellendam, Grabouw, Ceres, Moorreesburg, Riebeek-West and Riversdal.
While door-to-door delivery is likely to remain the core of the Bashew’s business, the company is making inroads into the formal retail sector. Recently Bashew’s secured a presence in Fruit & Veg City and could soon be pushing for shelf space at leading chain stores.
Of course, one has to marvel at the fact that Bashew’s has survived so long in a soft-drink market so completely dominated by the ‘big red’ of Coca-Cola.
Williams stresses Bashew’s is a niche brand that triggers a nostalgic and ‘feel good’ experience. “Many Capetonians fondly recall how their parents and grandparents had drank Bashews or their own experiences of their youth when they enjoyed Bashew’s at birthday, weddings and family occasions. These personal experiences create an affinity to the brand…”
He says the novelty of the Bashew’s vintage glass bottle drinks in a wooden crate - coupled with affordable prices - has entrenched the company’s position in the market.
Adam also believes community participation has been a key ingredient in Bashew’s success.
He points out that Bashew’s has partnered with hundreds of community based entrepreneurs using their own trucks and bakkies to deliver Bashew’s to neighbourhoods.
“These successful community partnerships with entrepreneurs have produced sales to households in such high volumes that it was never necessary for Bashew’s to sell into retail markets”.
Williams, though, is tight-lipped on the specifics of Bashew’s operations.
“Because the soft drinks market is so competitive, it is not our policy to share information on our volumes.”
But he notes that many of the community based entrepreneurs - who distribute Bashew’s to households - it is their sole means of income. “We will continue our partnership with them for as long as there is demand for door to door sales.”
Adam, though, says there are plans to grow this niche side of Bashew’s business. “We’ve recently appointed a number of new distributors to increase our reach to households throughout the Western Cape.”
On the retail side, Adam says there is growing interest in their products from retail channels. But, he stresses, Bashew’s will always remain a niche offering.
“Our core business is in the Western Cape and our immediate strategy is to broaden our business in this region.”
Williams says the strategy going forward is to maintain Bashew’s focus as a soft drinks company. “We feel that entering into new markets - such as mineral waters and energy drinks - will detract from that focus.”
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