The petrol station brand taking over South Africa

South Africa’s second-largest petroleum network, Astron Energy, is undergoing a massive rebranding project that spans over 800 Caltex-branded service stations in South Africa and Botswana. 

“The rebrand from Caltex to Astron Energy is the biggest change in the South African fuel industry in three decades,” Astron’s Communications Manager, Suzanne Pullinger, told Daily Investor. 

The name change from Caltex follows the 2018 majority acquisition of the former Chevron South Africa by Glencore, since which time Astron Energy has been operating the Caltex brand under a license agreement.

In August 2021, the group announced that all Caltex-branded service stations in South Africa and Botswana would be rebranded Astron Energy. In August 2022, the company rebranded the first of its over 800 sites.

This project has continued over the last few years, and there are currently 300 Astron Energy service stations in South Africa. 

Pullinger explained that this rebrand “has gained the attention of not only the consumer public but also possible investors and retailers from other brands who see the huge potential in something fresh, exciting and rewarding to the market”.

Astron also owns and operates the country’s third-largest crude oil refinery in Cape Town and a lubricant manufacturing plant in Durban, making it one of the few industry participants that is currently refining its own fuel instead of relying on imports.

“We have made significant investments in our refinery in Milnerton and our extensive retail network, which speaks to the solid future we envisage for our company,” Pullinger said.  

Acting General Manager of Commercial and Industrial for Astron Energy, Axola Myendeki, said the company is actively considering investing in its refining operations to produce cleaner fuels in the future and assist South Africa with energy security.

“From a perspective of energy security and remaining in the country, we see a lot of upside in terms of the future prospects of the country, and we will probably be making additional investments into the refining capacity and energy securitization in the country,” said Myendeki in a CapeTalk interview.

Pullinger explained that this forms a key part of the company’s growth plan to build a future-fit brand.

“Our new brand allows us to step confidently into the future, one in which we aim to welcome customers to our new-look forecourts and experiences,” she said. 

Astron Energy has signed a 10-year partnership extension agreement with FreshStop.

Strategic partnerships

“We’ve put a lot of work into redefining our fuel and non-fuel retail offerings in line with evolving customer expectations and we are looking forward to launching future products and partnerships into this fresh and energised space.”

One of these partnerships is with the retail brand FreshStop, with which Astron signed a 10-year partnership extension agreement in May. 

Food Lover’s Market Group CEO Brian Coppin explained that this marks the continuation of a 15-year, R830 million partnership with the Astron group. 

“This continued winning partnership with Astron Energy will ensure that we can continue to grow our ever-expanding footprint, offering over 200,000 daily South African customers incredible value, variety and a world-class forecourt experience.”

FreshStop CEO Joe Boyle said, “The partnership has seen the creation of 7,000 new jobs, and we’ve successfully established the Crispy Chicken, Sausage Saloon, Grill to Go and Seattle Coffee as popular food and beverage brands within our stores.”

According to Astron Energy’s general manager of retail and marketing, Farouk Farista, sites featuring a FreshStop have seen significant revenue and traffic returns as a result of the prime convenience store offering.

“Our figures show that when a fuel forecourt store converts to the FreshStop brand, the franchisees experience growth in fuel volume, and the FreshStop brands experienced 60% on average per year compound growth in sales in the first ten years,” Boyle said.

However, the 10-year extension agreement between Astron Energy and FreshStop is no longer exclusive. Farista said the fuel company was constantly examining evolving trends and opportunities in the fuel retail space.

Pullinger explained that in this rebranding process, Astron “will explore opportunities to further grow our extensive retail footprint in support of our commitment to the growth and development of South Africa, its people and our vision for the future”.