RMB takes equity stake in South African alcohol-free drinks company

7th December 2021 By: Simone Liedtke - Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

Financial services provider Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) has partnered with AB InBev’s corporate venture capital arm ZX Ventures to take an equity stake in alcohol-free South African drinks company The Duchess – creator of the world’s first alcohol-free gin and tonic.

Launched in 2016, The Duchess has achieved multinational success by selling over eight-million bottles and winning the Best Adult Drink & Best New Drink Concept at the Global Innobev Awards.

In 2020, it expanded its range to launch alcohol-free wine spritzers to target the underserved alcohol-free wine market.

RMB growth capital solutions team’s Catherine Townshend says the investment “represents a great opportunity to build on The Duchess’s success story with global momentum in the ‘better for you’ beverage innovation category”.

“We are pleased to support an innovative and proudly South African team to take a special ‘home-grown’ product beyond our borders and share it with the rest of the world.”

The Duchess is now available in seven countries including South Africa, The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and the UK.

Over 50% of its sales already come from export markets.

The Duchess founder Johannes le Roux says there is a fast-growing, global demand for non-alcoholic drinks.

“The Duchess is proving to be an international favourite with health and wellness-minded people who simply weren’t satisfied with sparkling water or sugary soft drinks as alternatives to alcohol,” he comments, adding that “people have become more conscious about what they put in their bodies. The notion of 'you are what you eat' has evolved to 'you are also what you drink’”.

Le Roux notes that no and low alcohol is a category which he believes has huge potential.

“It’s projected to grow by a 7.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) a year to a $43-billion global market by 2025.

“Alcohol-free drinks are likely to be particularly popular with females in Africa and younger consumers that are 'sober curious’”.

Traditionally, 82% of female consumers in Africa abstain from alcohol.

Le Roux adds that the global pandemic has spurred a greater focus on health and wellness.

ZX Ventures, the corporate venture capital and innovation arm of AB InBev, first backed The Duchess in 2019.

The Duchess is the first co-investment between RMB and ZX Ventures.