Taste the alternative: a whistle-stop tour of beverages and payments around the world


It’s summertime, it’s lunchtime, and it’s hot. You’re hungry and with the weather, you’re very thirsty, so what’s the best thing to do? See what’s available at a near-by restaurant? Grab a drink and a snack at a local shop? Or use the Internet to order a delivery?

Whatever you decide, you may well end up quenching your thirst with a product that’s only found in your part of the world and paying for it using a method which might be unfamiliar to your colleagues based in other countries. Nearly everyone’s familiar with Coke and Pepsi (and Visa and Mastercard, two of the best-known names in payments) but there are plenty of smaller brands available as well, products that meet local wants and needs. So join us for a whistle-stop tour of eight countries – get to know some new soft drinks, and find out how the locals prefer to pay for them.

Let’s start our tour in Brazil: e-commerce here is growing at more than 15% a year, and the B2C e-commerce sector is worth $19.4 billion. 20% of these transactions are made using Boleto Bancario, a local Brazilian bank transfer solution. Another 9% are made with local credit cards like Hipercard, ELO and Aura – around 80% of card owners have, and use, a local card. Reason for the vast amount of local cards and the high popularity of Boleto Bancario is the very low financial inclusion in Brazil, i.e. most people do not have access to a bank account. This strong local bias is reflected in Brazilian’s soft drink preferences. The Brazilian market is the world’s third largest soft drink market, and Guarana, a carbonated drink based on a traditional drink of indigenous Brazilians, accounts for more than a quarter of this market. Just the thing to refresh you after a hot day at the beach, or a wild night at the Rio carnival!

The (rather long) hop over to Finland – and the change in climate – will give you a chance to cool off. This Nordic country accounts for over 40% of all e-commerce in the region, with B2C e-commerce generating $10.1 billion. Traditional Scandinavian beverages like Erdbeerlimonad (a sparkling strawberry drink) can be found throughout the country, but while the Finns are eager to support tradition, they’re also looking firmly to the future. When it comes to retail, it’s often cheaper to pay using a card rather than cash, with even the smallest independent shops accepting them. 52% of consumers shop online, and online banking transfers are widely used when paying for goods and services. So if you’re planning to emulate the Finns, and pop out for the first of your 5 cups of coffee today, don’t forget to take an appropriate method of payment with you – and that won’t be a handful of coins!

In contrast, if you’re heading to Vietnam, you should definitely plan to take a stack of US dollars (widely accepted) or dong (the local currency). The country’s infrastructure is still undeveloped, making credit card penetration almost zero. Purchases contributing to Vietnam’s $1.5 billion B2C e-commerce sector are usually paid for by alternative payment methods such as XXX or in cash on delivery. This adherence to tradition is also reflected in the nation’s beverage choices – one popular thirst-quencher is Nuac Me, a sweet-and-sour tasting drink made from tamarind. Fruit from the tamarind tree has multiple uses: its distinctive flavour gives piquancy to the local cuisine, and the fruit pulp is used to polish brass artefacts found in Buddhist shrines.

A shift from the traditional to the technological takes us over to Germany, a country ranking 5th in the world in terms of online sales volume. With 60% of the population shopping online, it’s not surprising that e-commerce is booming, with the B2C e-commerce sector being worth $71.2 billion. And while Germans may not have embraced the credit card with any great enthusiasm, they certainly benefit from technology (used to facilitate direct debits like SEPA direct debit, bank transfer methods like giropay and SOFORT and payment on account payment options) when making payment choices. This preference for a mixture is reflected in Spezi, a blend of cola and orangeade invented in Bavaria in the 1950s.

Israel is only a few years older than Spezi, having formally become a country in 1948. Although the B2C e-commerce sector is worth $169 million, domestic e-commerce is limited, with many Israeli consumers choosing to shop abroad. However, the country’s strong start-up environment indicates a commitment to local talent, so perhaps it’s not surprising that consumers choose to use local payment cards such as Isracard. And with a similarly commitment to physical activity, what could be a better drink to choose than a natural alternative such as peach nectar?

Turkey enjoys a reputation for being a country which blends tradition with progress. While the B2C e-commerce sector is relatively small at $7 billion, 33% credit card penetration and usage makes it unsurprising that most online transactions are paid for with a card. The taste for tradition is reflected in the country’s fondness for Uludağ Gazoz, a sparkling drink originally made with spring water from the Uludağ mountain.

You’re more likely to find South Africa’s treasure under the earth than in a mountain range. Famous for gemstones, minerals and gold, this country’s B2C e-commerce sector only totals $3 billion, but 22% of consumers will shop online. Of those that do, 28% of them use their mobiles, with credit cards and e-wallet payments being a popular choice. And if you find you’ve made an unwise purchase after a heavy celebration, just reach for a can of Crème Soda: this local beverage is nicknamed the Green Ambulance, or Crème Sober, and is meant to be great at combatting hangovers.

It’s not only South Africans who use soft drinks as a cure for the morning after the night before. Inhabitants of the UK, our final stop, do this too: the Scottish soft drink, Irn-Bru, is famous for its restorative properties. A can of this will certainly set you up to make your contribution to the largest e-commerce market in Europe: the country accounts for 30% of all ecommerce transactions in the region, with the B2C e-commerce sector being worth $157 billion. Although alternative payment methods are used by the British, most of them did not originate in the UK, and credit and debit cards remain the preferred method of payment.

That’s the end of our tour, and it’s probably time for you to get back to work. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at some of the alternatives around the world, and that you found something tasty to quench your thirst!