Chinese make a beeline for Grahamstown’s mead beverage

Cindy Preller

WITH existing export contracts in the US and Switzerland, a meadery based in Grahamstown has also piqued the interest of the Chinese market.

The Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) assisted Makana Meadery in introducing the mead beverage to one of the biggest consumer markets in the world – which has shown a keen interest in iQhilika, an alcoholic beverage made from Eastern Cape honey. Garth Cambray, founder and director of Grahamstown Brewery, trading as Makana Meadery, said yesterday it was particularly encouraging that the mead drink had been so well received in China.

“Because the market is so gigantic, all you need is one distributor in China. We haven’t been doing any aggressive type of marketing, some people discover mead and become our brand ambassadors,” Cambray, who was The Herald Citizen of the Year in 2007, said.

Mead was exported to 40 states in the US with about 80 barrels exported last year.

“It either gets repackaged or sold in the original wooden barrels to pubs and cocktail bars in America. Our sales do particularly well in New York and Chicago. In Switzerland we export to a smaller, niche market.”

Makana Meadery was one of six companies placed by the ECDC on a 30-month permanent trade fair in Ningbo, China.

ECDC market access specialist Zodwa Kepeyi said Ningbo had the largest sea port in China, and the second largest in the world. The city therefore presented vast opportunities to channel Eastern Cape products to larger markets within China and the rest of the world. Feedback so far confirmed a big interest in the Makana mead products.

Other Eastern Cape companies participating in the fair are East London-based Oceanwise (cob fish) and Berrynice (berry products), Port Elizabeth’s Momentos of Africa (mohair products) and Mend-A-Bath (bath resurfacing company), as well as Carara (cherry peppers) from Grahamstown.

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