Amarula CreamThe Spirit of Africa | 0 Comments
THE BIRTH OF AN AFRICAN SPIRIT
The Marula Tree (Sclerocarya birrea), sometimes called the Elephant Tree, is an African botanical treasure steeped in romance and legend. It grows only in sub-equatorial Africa and in summer produces ripe and juicy marula fruits with a citrus tang and a creamy, nutty taste.
Marula trees are beautiful and leafy yet drought-resistant. They grow from 9 metres to 18 metres tall and can bear 500 kg or more of fruit per year.
Exotic and delicious, animals love them: elephants, rhino, warthog, kudu, baboons, vervet monkeys, zebra and porcupine.
Amarula has captured the heart of the marula’s uniquely exotic aromas and flavours, combined with fresh dairy cream. Sold in over 100 countries across the world, Amarula is known as the Spirit of Africa.
Amarula: A Champion Brand
Amarula was awarded another gold at the 2012 International Wine & Spirit Competition, held in London recently.
Amarula is a regular gold medallist on this prestigious platform that draws entries from producers across the globe.
The African original and a luxury beverage, was also named a key contender in the Spirits Business, a leading UK-based international trade journal and a voice for the International Bartenders’ Association.
It named Amarula as potential ‘Brand Champion’ in its new spirits survey, Reigning Supreme: Brand Champions 2012, released in June.
Amarula is one of eight liqueur brand champions identified worldwide and is hailed for its exceptional performance last year, delivering double digit sales volume growth. The magazine praised Amarula for closing “the year in strong fashion, enjoying double-digit growth thanks to a particularly robust performance in Latin American markets and the brand’s launch into Mexico.”
Similarly, Euromonitor has listed Amarula as one of the world’s fastest-growing global brands across all spirits categories, based on its 2011 performance, with the brand featured in The Millionaires’ Club, produced by Drinks International that covers the world’s million-case spirits brands.
Since then, according to senior global marketing spokesperson Siobhan Thompson, growth has accelerated with buoyant sales in Africa, Europe, the Americas and in the duty-free channel. This is despite the fact that unlike its competitors, it produces just one flavour.
“The marula flavour is so exotic and so closely bound up with the mystery of Africa that it remains a very compelling offering and we keep supporters loyal by focusing on the versatility of the brand as an indulgent drink for any occasion, to be enjoyed on its own or in an exciting range of cocktails and coffees.
She said even the Eurozone crisis had not dampened enthusiasm for the brand on the Continent, while UK was another market doing surprisingly well.
“At the same time, we are seeing very promising results from developing markets such as Nigeria and Angola, as well as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.”
She said that the uniqueness of the taste and Amarula’s strong African positioning held widespread appeal for consumers. “Elephants love the marula fruit and are a focal feature of our communications, which makes us very distinctive. We are also actively involved in elephant conservation, giving rise to many narrative and promotional possibilities. Recently we launched a novel, conservation-themed competition for consumers internationally in which winners were given a rare opportunity to participate in collaring an African elephant in the wild.”
Last year Amarula was voted one of the world’s top bar brands in an international industry poll undertaken byDrinks International. In the survey involving 700 bartenders, bar owners and mixologists across 60 countries, Amarula was listed as a Top Ten Hot Liqueur brand, taking sixth position. Respondents were drawn from the most popular bars in major world cities and were asked to identify the hottest brands on the lips of their patrons.
Marula: Sustenance of Kings and Communities
The marula fruit is loved for its taste and is revered as the food of kings amongst many sub-Saharan peoples. A marula brew is sometimes given as an offering to the spirits of the ancestors or to honour their leaders.
The trees are an important part of African community life. They serve as meeting places and amongst some tribes they are known as ‘marriage’ trees and even today weddings are held under their umbrella-shaped branches.
Marulas are rich in vitamin C, potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as protein. The oil-rich kernels inside the fruit are an essential source of nutrition and have anti-oxidant and moisturising properties. The bark of the tree is credited with healing properties. Amongst some groups, marula twigs are used to light fires when babies are born to pass on to them and their mothers attributes such as tenderness. Water that is stored in large quantities in the roots is tapped during times of drought.
Archaeological evidence of marula fruit can be dated back as far as 10 000 BC
Marula fruit, ripened under the African sun, is picked from mid-January to mid-March. Many of the wild-growing trees are found in the sub-tropical region of Phalaborwa, in South Africa’s Limpopo Province.
When the fruit falls to the ground, heavy with flavour and goodness, it is collected by the women of the local rural communities before being delivered to the Amarula production plant in Phalaborwa.
From Marula to Amarula
The marula fruit is a key ingredient of Amarula. Harvesters are paid for every kilogram they deliver and what they earn is a valued source of income for their families.
Each fruit is individually quality checked.
The sweet, fragrant flesh is separated from the hard seeds and then fermented to make marula wine that is later double-distilled. During the second distillation the marula flavours are further concentrated.
To enrich and deepen its flavours, the spirit is aged for two years in wood where wood spice characters of vanilla and toast are naturally imparted. Also included is fresh dairy cream to give a rich and velvety smoothness to Amarula, bottled at an alcohol by volume of 17%.
Not one gram of the marula is wasted – the remaining nuts are collected, dried and then given back to the community who use the oils from the inner kernels to eat and to produce various ointments and moisturisers.
About the Marula
Sustaining an ancient wonder
The exotic marula trees grow wild on the sub-Saharan plains of Africa. They are plentiful in many parts of South Africa, including the famous game reserve, Kruger National Park and also in Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
They support an extensive ecosystem. Their cooling canopies provide habitats for a range of plants and grasses, while the fruit is eaten by many animals.
A study undertaken by the UK Department of International Development and the Natural Environment Research Council observed that the large-scale harvesting of the fruit poses no environmental risk. The trees are also protected under South African law.
The not-for-profit Amarula Trust focuses on community upliftment and conservation programmes. Its motto,Sustaining communities and conscious conservation highlights Amarula’s ongoing support for socio-economic and environmental projects. The Trust works closely with communities where the marula fruit grows and is actively involved in elephant research and field guide scholarship programmes.
By helping to conserve the natural environment and promote physical and social sustainability, the Trust hopes to leave a living legacy to future generations.
Sustaining Communities: Golden Threads of Hope
The Amarula Trust is involved in a job-creation project in Sir Lowry’s Pass village in the Western Cape, South Africa that is helping 85 formerly unemployed women.
The women thread, knot and brush out the golden braided tassles that adorn the neck of every Amarula bottle. They support 300 people from their community. They are also given training in life skills.
Conscious Conservation: Amarula Elephant Research Programme (AERP)
As the marula fruit is so loved by African elephants, the Amarula Trust also supports elephant research, conservation and management.
The Amarula Elephant Research Programme (AERP) is run by Professor Rob Slotow of the Kwa-Zulu-Natal University (UKZN). It has become recognised globally as an authority on the behaviour of African elephants and attracts international and local academic researchers of the highest calibre.
The programme promotes the conservation of African elephant in wild areas and develops conservation management solutions. The management strategies address individual and group elephant behavior and their impact on the environment.
They are applied by government, private land owners and rural communities.
For more information, visit the University of KZN’s Website
Elephant Collaring – What We’ve Learned
A critical part of the AERP’s research involves the tracking of elephants to understand their behavior within their environment and also amongst one another. Amarula Trust funding provides for their collaring as a real-time tracking device.
As elephants are matriarchal, mostly females are darted. Once the collars, fitted with GPRS devices, have been attached to the gently slumbering elephants, they can be digitally tracked. On waking, they resume their position in the herd and continue as before.
Collars automatically record the location of elephants at 30-minute intervals. The information is then downloaded through the GSM cellular network. Using indices such as rate of movement or even the number and angle of turning behavior, it is possible to find out how the elephants are responding to local conditions.
Centre for African Conservation Ecology
The Amarula Trust supports the Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE) at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth. It is funding a research and training programme on elephant ecology and biology that looks at the impact of the elephant population on the biodiversity of the Addo Elephant National Park (AENP) in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
NMMU under-graduate and post-graduate science students are being trained in field research techniques.
The university’s centre also maintains an extensive photographic and life history database accounting for every elephant within the park, as far back as the 1930s. This makes it the longest-spanning record of elephant life history information in the world.
Amarula Scholarship Programme
The Amarula Trust supports the Southern African Wildlife College, a joint initiative of WWF-SA and the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF). The college, in Hoedspruit, in Limpopo Province, South Africa, is a central training point for game rangers throughout the Southern African Development Community region.
The Amarula Field Guide Scholarship Programme makes it possible for people from rural communities to attend a one-month long field guiding course at the college. Their training offers a brief scientific introduction to the physical environment of the Southern African bushveld.
The Amarula Trust also sponsors prizes for the top performing students in other more senior areas of study at the college, with many of the prize winners entering middle and senior management conservation positions at leading game parks in Africa.
The Trust also runs a similar field guide course in Botswana so locals can become qualified field guides.
Kenya Wildlife Services
The headquarters of Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) serve as a gateway to Nairobi National Park, one of Kenya’s biggest game reserves and the only park in the world located within a capital city. To improve the quality of life of the local community and promote their sense of safety and security, the Amarula Trust has funded the installation of street lighting and bus shelters.
The Trust donates 20 Kenyan shillings for every bottle of Amarula sold in Kenya. The money is used to support wildlife rehabilitation, improvement and maintenance of the Nairobi National Park.