Mageu and cartons are a match made in heaven

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Dan Up Cartons

Businesses have to work harder than ever to ensure consumers choose their product over a competitor’s. This is as a result of today’s economic climate. Towards the business end of the year, the food and non-alcoholic beverages (NAB) inflation rate reached a four-month high of 9% in November but declined to 8.5% in December.

Due to this, South African consumers are feeling the pressure and are far more sensitive to changes in price. One industry that understands this is mageu. Producers of the well-loved maize drink must carefully consider any changes to their product that might incur an increase in cost. Risks such as load shedding and the COVID-19 pandemic have not worked in the mageu industry’s favour. According to BMi Research’s 2023 Annual Quantification Report, mageu is only expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels after 2026. Despite this, the cost increase for the beverage is still below CPI.

It’s this and its nutritional content that make mageu a great value-for-money beverage for many South Africans. Usually made from maize, it is in essence a liquefied porridge that provides consumers with a great source of slow-release energy. The category has experienced a number of developments over the years to meet the evolving preferences of its market. Today, there are all types of flavours on shelves including banana, strawberry, moringa and even marula, as well as a range of textures.

Today, multigrain dairy blend variants have appeared on shelf and given rise to an extremely popular category. Not strictly mageu or drinking yoghurt, these exciting and innovative products traverse and compete in both categories. The multigrain dairy blend variants tend to be combinations of malt, mabele, oats, sorghum and yoghurt in a host of flavours.

More recently, mageu has evolved once again with a new category making its way into the market. Smooth, caffeine-infused variants have emerged and are set to compete with the plethora of quick release energy drinks.

To ensure mageu continues to be an affordable beverage, manufacturers are always looking to keep costs low and one of the ways to do this is to select cost-effective packaging that is fit for purpose, eye-catching and sustainable. According to BMi Research, 94.7 million litres of mageu was produced in 2022 and 72.9% of this was packaged in cartons. What is it about cartons that make it the perfect match for mageu?

Form follows function

The fibreboard cartons act as an effective insulator and functional packaging solution to protect and preserve the product. Typically hot filled, mageu is robust in distribution as no refrigeration is required before opening. But it is best served chilled and shaken well. Once opened it should be consumed within three to four days.

The specially developed paperboard also adds strength to the packaging and ensures the carton maintains its rigid shape once filled and packed for delivery to retailers. This is an important quality for brands as customers are unlikely to pick up products that show any signs of damage.

It’s these features that give brands the flexibility to introduce new products. Spearheading the multigrain trend Danone introduced its DanUp range in 2016, fusing mageu with yoghurt to provide consumers with a more nutritious meal on the go. It has been a tremendous hit with consumers, resulting in the company buying an even larger Nampak carton filling machine to keep up with the demand.

“We compete squarely with the mageu category and the carton pack enabled us to do this with credibility,” says Lazola Dali, Marketing Manager of Danone South Africa. “This partnership with Nampak enabled the DanUp brand to reach number two by year four. DanUp has gone on to reinvigorate the entire category by attracting consumption from a younger audience and both genders.”

Keeping up appearances

Packaging is often the first interaction a customer has with a product. The look and feel of packaging can help tell a brand’s story and entice customers to select one product over another on the shelf. Cartons provide ample room for brands to not only share all the necessary nutritional information, ingredients and expiry date, but offer space for eye-catching visuals and designs that capture a shopper’s attention in store and gets them to look twice. Thanks to high-quality printing and aesthetic designs, Nampak’s Pure-Pak cartons present brands with an opportunity to have an excellent presence on the shelf.

Tried and trusted packaging solution

It’s these qualities and others that made choosing Nampak cartons a straightforward choice for Sandile Simelane, Director of SANO Foods. Based in Eswatini, Simelane was approached by a SANO Foods customer to fill and package mageu (also known as mahewu) for distribution in Eswatini and Mpumalanga in South Africa.

“Given my background in the food manufacturing industry, choosing Nampak Cartons as the packaging supplier for our mahewu product was a no brainer,” says Simelane. “Because we are a small business, any wrong move could be a bullet to the whole operation, and so I went with a packaging solution and company that I knew was tried and tested. This allowed me to focus on the manufacturing itself and leave the packaging up to Nampak.”

Simelane leased a filling machine from Nampak that was installed and started running in September. In addition to providing the machine, Nampak trained SANO Foods staff on the equipment and maintains and services the equipment when needed. It’s this experience and know-how that provides manufacturers with the support they need every step of the way from installation to regular maintenance.

“Mahewu is my lunch on the go,” says Simelane. “Cartons make it very easy for me to handle the drink and reseal to finish later. So as a consumer myself, I knew that selecting cartons was the right decision for our market and our business.”

Thokozani Dlamini, Production Manager for Casa Mia, echoed these sentiments and applauded Nampak for its industry experience and know-how.

“Since purchasing a Nampak Pure-Pak carton filling machine, I’ve been extremely happy with the installation and running of the operation,” says Dlamini. “Simple advice from the Nampak team such as installing surge protectors to protect the machine is the kind of thoughtful service that businesses need from their supplier. It’s great to know that if I have a problem, Nampak are just a phone call away.”

Casa Mia Big Up Carton

A sustainable choice

Price continues to be a driving factor for many South Africans, however, according to McKinsey, 38% of consumers often choose sustainable packaging when shopping. Eco conscious habits are picking up and brands will need to consider how best to incorporate sustainability in their products.

With this in mind, cartons offer mageu brands a sustainable packaging solution. The paperboard is made from virgin wood fibre, which is sourced from responsibly managed forests. Because the trees are specifically grown for paper packaging, once harvested, new trees are planted in their place. This process plays an important role in the fight against global warming, as the newly planted trees absorb carbon dioxide which remains locked in the fibre of the board.

In addition to being made from renewable materials, cartons are recyclable. The paperboard can be repurposed into other paper-based products such as corrugated cardboard and boxes, while the polyethylene and aluminium layers are also stripped away. These are then turned into various items including planks for construction, roofing, and furniture such as school desks and outdoor benches.

“I like their recyclability, hygiene and pack integrity,” says Dali. “Cartons also bring a level of nostalgia from brands that have been packed in them before like Inkomasi and Yogi Sip. Internationally Danone is certified as a B Corp Corporation. This means we take how we treat the environment, the packaging we chose, and the recycling thereof very seriously.”

Dan Up Carton

With over 70% of mageu packaged in cartons, it’s clear that cartons are the packaging solution of choice for this popular Southern African beverage. The Pure-Pak carton not only meets the requirements for ensuring mageu is packed and stored safely but ticks the boxes when it comes to appearance and sustainability. At the same time, Nampak’s experience as a packaging supplier also ensures manufacturers have the maintenance support they need for cost-effective packaging from start to finish. It’s all of these factors that ensure mageu remains a healthy, nutritious and filling food source at an affordable price. Cartons and mageu are a match made in heaven that works for both consumers and brands.