Authenticity the ‘BOS’

The following article was published on 16 July 2014 by, a site for the advertising, design and media industries. The article was written by Thabang Leshilo.


South Africa’s emerging middle market is being short-changed by the mass-produced, ubiquitous global brands, and it should look to brands that espouse authenticity for greater satisfaction. Hands down, a Corona and pair of Havaianas are far more — well, far more. And local brands can deliver the ‘gees’, too.


Imported brands have always held caché for the market; products as mundane as washing powders, toothpastes and cornflakes are elevated when they wear an international label.


Sense of ‘cultural exchange’

Recently, however, there’s a sense of ‘cultural exchange’ — brands achieving success because of a local heritage, roots or authenticity. There are fashion brands from the Australian Outback that simply offer cotton and leather, and a great story. There are those flip-flops from Brazil and there’s a South African iced tea that’s just the ‘BOS’. It and its cultural appeal are the focus of this month’s column.

According to a release issued by BOS brands, the ready-to-drink (RTD) ice tea market at that time was the second-fastest growing category in the global soft drink market (sitting only behind Asian specialty drinks) and was forecast to grow by 40% by 2015. At 8% growth a year, it’s significantly outpacing the energy drink market, which is at just 4% a year.


While the big giants of the multibillion dollar beverage industry continue to power through with all their might to take advantage of this growth (economies of scale, massive spending power and highly developed management structures), unexpectedly, it’s been a young brand with a great entrepreneurial spirit that’s really stirred things up.


Global ambitions, local entrepreneurship

Within 14 months of launching, BOS Ice Tea established national distribution in over 1 200 outlets, including Woolworths, Makro, Engen forecourts and a wide range of delis, bars, restaurants and canteens. Its local success has attracted global investors, allowing BOS to realise its global ambitions and venture into the international beverage space.


Refreshing and inspiring in its approach and behaviour as a business, credibly positioned as an ‘ethical’ brand and a true maverick, it embodies everything that is contemporary marketing. It’s ethical, business-savvy, creative and original.

First off, the product is on-trend and is the authentic hero.

As a loyal fan, I personally attest to this. Made only from natural ingredients, lower in sugar, and free of colourants, flavourants, caffeine and preservatives, BOS Ice Tea offers a healthier alternative to the masses of soft-drink choices out there.

Consumer shift in lifestyle choices

Recognising the consumer shift in lifestyle choices both locally and abroad, BOS appeals to a more global mind-set of health conscious and environmentally-aware youth, who also just happen to be über-stylish. These consumers, whether in South Africa or Holland, have bought into the idea that healthy can also be cool.

Secondly, it embraces technology — it’s connected and youthful. Witness the launch of the world’s first Twitter-activated sampling vending machine; it is evident that the brand likes to engage, have fun, give joyful experiences and share a sense of life and living.

Thirdly, it tells an African story, with youthful, clean and compelling design. Through its Afro-pop inspired design, the brand tells a narrative of contemporary Africa for other cultures around the world to experience. The potent symbols of African mythology, the lion and Sirius — the brightest star in the night sky — are set against a backdrop of bold African colours that reflect the flavours and functions of the range.


Local is lekker – and getting better all the time

Yes, local is lekker, and BOS Ice Tea has managed to make the Rooibos we all know and love super cool and trendy around the world by simply staying true to its roots.


BOS is proud to have developed and launched an authentic, joyful, healthy African brand — and a range of premium quality products which add value to African raw materials in Africa and create jobs for its inhabitants.


“We are in effect trying to execute a land grab — for BOS to lay authentic claim to global leadership in the Rooibos-based ice tea market worldwide.” — BOS co-founder Richard Bowsher.


People want both


Despite living in a world of mass consumerism, there is no real battle between global and local brands. According to a report issued by the Brand Channel, in the end, people want both — brands that make them feel part of a wider international community and brands that root them in their home culture.

We need more local brands like Bos Ice Tea, brands that create more meaningful, authentic and cultural brand experiences that can be proudly exchanged with the rest of the world.


We may be at the tip of Africa, but with an entrepreneurial spirit, high levels of optimism and a sense of African pride that is shared by other young people across the content, we have the potential to start putting more authentic African brands out there.