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Tapping into a new market spells success for local women

The Western Cape is traditionally known for its fine wines, but as tourism and business engagements with different countries increase, it is time to change the focus of our drinking culture.
“The choices have been limited if you are entertaining a guest or business partner who does not drink alcohol,” says Silvana Dantu of African Equations. “I’ve been embarrassed to see potential investors into our country being offered water or a sweet, fizzy drink if they don’t drink wine.”
Dantu and her business partner Shareen Parker decided that “enough is enough” and have spent the past four years developing a sophisticated alternative to wine. The decision represents a change in direction for the women who established African Equations, the well-known event, marketing and media strategy brand.
“It is an exciting new business venture for us,” Dantu explains. “The learning curve has been steep, but we have also found that many of the skills we have gained over the years have served us well in this venture too. Our knowledge of the tourism industry has been key, as has our experience of marketing.”
“We had to get a good understanding of the traditionally white, male-dominated grape industry, and we had to make use of all our negotiating and strategic skills to make this work.”
The hard work is beginning to pay off. One of the biggest coups for the team has been a deal with the Lulu Hypermarket retail group in Dubai.
“The first shipment of the lifestyle drink to Lulu went out in December last year, and the response has been great,” Dantu says. “The export market is important to us, but we are not forgetting the local consumers.”
“You must remember that the terrior and the grape varietals that make our wines world class also have the potential to provide us with a very superior grape juice,” Dantu says. “Sadly most of the grape juice that is available is made of blends and concentrate, producers don’t invest the same resources as they do in our prestigious wines.”
The quest for the perfect sparkling grape lasted more than a year, and took the two entrepreneurs to vineyards across South Africa, from the Orange River to the Western Cape before they secured a producers’ agreement with the Van Loveren Family Trust.
“ZARI is made from the muscat seedless cultivar, it is alcohol free, rich in nutrition and anti-oxidants and contains no artificial colorants, or added sugar,” Dantu says. It is the perfect drink when alcohol is not an option, especially for health or religious reasons. Our flagship product, ZARI Bubbly has proved to be a hit with the trendy and fashionable non-drinkers at weddings and high days such as Valentine’s Day. It is great on its own or mixed into summer cocktails.
“For us that is more than just a sales pitch – it is about providing a product that respects both the Western Cape’s grape heritage, our local high-end market and the new wave of visitors to our shores ensuring that they enjoy a quality lifestyle beverage without the side-effects of alcohol. ZARI is also ideal for the new emerging tourist markets and business guests from the Middle East. ”

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