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Neeraj Kumar of Beam Suntory on the COVID Impact

Undoubtedly the global economies have been in a tizzy due to the ongoing pandemic situation. While the markets and businesses are starting to open slowly, the F&B industry hasn’t seen a more challenging situation. While converting their manufacturing facilities to produce hand sanitizers to help the government might have eased the burden temporarily, manufacturers are eagerly awaiting the good times to roll back.

In a quick interaction with Ambrosia, Neeraj Kumar, MD, Beam Suntory India commented on the how the ongoing pandemic impacted the industry and also the efforts that his company is making during this time with nearly 60 days retail lockdown for duty-free shops, bars, hotels and restaurants continuing to remain shut. “As a world leader in premium spirits, on-premise outlets play an important role in Beam Suntory’s business in India. In our commitment to support the F&B community, we partnered with NRAI to pledge support of INR 1 Crore to provide relief to the staff of member restaurants who have passionately supported the industry with their talent. We also rolled out the ‘learn and earn’ program through our global bartending engagement program, ‘The Blend’ which encouraged bartenders to utilize their time at home effectively by taking up online training modules spread across 50 sessions, with prizes for the participants.”

Despite the cases ramping up and India becoming one of the top 3 countries affected by the pandemic the government is making numerous efforts to revive the industry. And this move is welcomed by Kumar as he states ‘we support the Government’s decision to open e-commerce channels for online sales and home delivery of alcohol in some states, which has led to the much-needed growth in off-trade for the alcobev brands. We hope there is a continuous expansion of e-commerce channels as we move forward.’

As a company Beam Suntory though isn’t only focusing on the business, but also channeling their CSR to spread more awareness of social distancing and safety measures. “As social distancing continues to be the norm, we have also partnered with ISWAI to bring forth a program called ‘Safe Shield’ to educate retailers on safety measures as they open their shops. These include keeping a distance of 2 meters between two people, not having more than 5 people in the store at a given time and keeping hygiene as the top priority by sanitizing the area and salesmen wearing masks at all times,” adds Kumar.

It’s official, the ‘cocktail hour’ is back according to new research

More than half of Brits surveyed is back.

Lockdowns have pushed everyone’s social life to the backburner and patrons are looking to entertain themselves at home. In a survey conducted during the lockdown on how Brits were enjoying their drinks at home during a lockdown, more than half of those surveyed believed that ‘Cocktail Hour’ has made a comeback during this time.

Research states that more than half (53%) of Brits surveyed believe the cocktail hour has made a comeback in recent weeks, with 7.30 pm emerging as the time people are most likely to raise a glass with loved ones. While ‘cocktail hour’ was born in America, it reached the height of fashion in Britain in the 1920s. In fact, the first cocktail party in the UK is said to date back to 1924 and was reportedly thrown by war artist Christopher Nevinson.

But today, according to the findings from a Bacardi’s survey, the cocktail hour has made a virtual come back with as many as 43% of respondents attempting to perfect cocktails at home since the lockdown began. Almost a third (31%) of participants have enjoyed virtual drinks parties with friends as a way of keeping in touch and one in five (21%) have even dressed up for their virtual drinks occasion. Close to 29% of respondents have been dusting off specialist cocktail glasses and 27% are going all out by making use of a shaker ahead of virtual get-togethers.

What’s more, the contemporary cocktail hour is here to stay, with over a quarter of those surveyed (27%) claiming they will continue hosting virtual cocktail hours with friends and family beyond the lockdown. Nearly a third (32%) of these budding mixologists claim they were inspired to try their hand at a cocktail because they are a more interesting alternative to wine and beer.

According to the survey, the Mojito (made with rum, sugar and zesty lime) is the most popular make-at-home cocktail. The classic Pina Colada, made with coconut cream, rum and pineapple came second, with the Californian-born Margarita coming in third place. While the Mojito proves the number one serve, vodka is the spirit of choice for 35% of those surveyed when making cocktails at home, closely followed by gin (33%) and rum (23%).

Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents have shared a virtual toast over a non-alcoholic or low alcohol cocktail according to the report, with Virgin Pina Coladas, Virgin Mojitos and Virgin Marys topping the poll of favourite non-alcoholic cocktails. Millennials prove the most mindful drinkers as data shows 41% of consumers between the age of 25-34 years surveyed have raised a low alcohol or non-alcoholic cocktail during virtual drinks.

This Father’s Day, Gift Your Main Man The Finest Single Malt from Islay’s Oldest Distillery, Bowmore

This Father’s Day, let Bowmore Aged 12 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, from Beam Suntory, be a worthy companion to the epitome of class and quiet sophistication synonymous with every father. Bowmore, Islay’s oldest distillery, is home to the world’s oldest whisky maturation warehouse, The No. 1 Vaults. Crafted to perfection in this legendary warehouse for over 240 years, the Bowmore’s 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a delicate blend of citrus notes and mellow honey, teasing the brand’s trademark peat smoke notes all the way. The culmination of this symphony of flavours leads to a titillating experience of the senses – one truly worthy of the Beam Suntory hallmark. The 12-Year-Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky has been awarded a Gold at San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018 and International Spirits Challenge 2017, reflecting the essence of Bowmore.

Just as the trickling sands of time refines a father into the best version of himself, so is the case with this offering. Promising to be just the reminder of indulgence every father deserves on his special day, Bowmore Aged 12-Years shines through to be the perfect gift for your main man.

Bowmore Aged 12 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky is available across all major cities including Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andaman, Maharashtra, Goa, Assam, Sikkim and West Bengal, and ranges from ? 3,200 to ? 7,500.

The best way to consume the Single Malt Scotch Whisky is as a Perfect Serve – add 30 ml of Bowmore Aged 12 Years, into an old fashioned glass, topped off with a dash of water. Bowmore Aged 12 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky is to be had in a manner that opens up its aromas, displays the complex flavours and notes.

Rémy Cointreau provides free accredited online training for hospitality workers.

Rémy Cointreau has partnered with Flow Hospitality Training to offer accredited training to hospitality workers at no cost. “The On-Trade are critical to our industry and during this uncertain time Rémy Cointreau wants to give something back to the men and women around the world who bring our brands to consumers,” said Richard Lambert, Global On-Trade Director at Rémy Cointreau.

The company’s move comes from recognising the unprecedented difficulties currently faced by the hospitality industry around the world. With many professionals either furloughed or currently unemployed and looking for an opportunity to enhance their skill set and advance their hospitality careers once trade reopens in their respective countries.

The members of the hospitality industry are invited to register for a wide selection of courses designed to expand their knowledge and practical understanding of various elements of the business; ranging from bartending to food, health and safety, to housekeeping, disability awareness, equality and diversity, customer service to wine and more intangible skills such as management, an introduction to leadership and effective team management.

“It’s encouraging to see a multi-national company like Rémy Cointreau giving back to the industry that supports it in such a meaningful way. We are delighted to partner with them to strengthen the On-Trade community,” added David Wither, Flow Hospitality Training Co-Founder.

CELEBRATE THE LE-GIN-DARY SPIRIT WITH ROKU GIN

There are special days for all things dear to us… And gin, the fashionable drink, is definitely one among them. In recent years, there is a strong trend among urban Indians to explore and also opt for gin as their spirit of choice owing to its refreshing appeal and exclusive botanical flavours, especially in cocktails and at brunches. The second Saturday of June, every year, is celebrated across the globe as World Gin Day.

In December 2019, Beam Suntory, the global premium spirits company, brought the flavourful Japan masterpiece – Roku® Gin to India with the launch of The House of Suntory portfolio. True to its Japanese craftsmanship, Roku alludes to the impeccable flavors and authenticity of the region. The unique blend artfully balances six unique Japanese botanicals – Sakura Flower or Yae-sakura and Sakuna Leaf or Oshima-sakura, which add the floral hints, Sencha Tea and Gyokoru Tea, for the full-bodied aroma, Sansho pepper or Bu-do Sansho, for the spicy notes, and Yuzu Peel, for the sweet citrus fruitiness.

With World Gin Day on 13th June, gin enthusiasts can look forward to exploring exciting new ways to enjoy this spirit that has conquered the love of beginners and aficionados alike. To celebrate the occasion, Beam Suntory brings to you a collection of fine Roku cocktails to be savoured within the comfort of your home:

ROKU TONIC – Roku gin, Tonic water and 6 strands of ginger

· Ingredients:
o 30 ml Roku
o 120 ml Tonic

· Garnish:
o Ginger sticks, as per your preference

· Method:
o Add all ingredients and build. Serve over cubed ice in a highball glass. Garnish with ginger slices.

ROKU SONIC – Roku Gin, Tonic Water, Soda Water, Lime

· Ingredients:

o 30 ml Roku
o 60 ml Tonic Water
o 60 ml Soda Water

· Garnish:
o Lime Garnish, as per your preference

· Method:
o Add ice to a highball glass and stir to chill glass. Add Roku and stir to chill the gin. Top with tonic.

ROKU SOUR – Roku Gin, Matcha Tea, Egg White, Yuzu Wheel

· Ingredients:
o 60 ml Roku
o 10 ml Matcha Tea
o 1 Egg White

· Garnish:
o Yuzu Wheel

· Method:

o Add egg whites to the shaker and shake to aerate. Add Roku and Matcha tea and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a Yuzu wheel.

ROKU NEGRONI – Roku Gin, Umeshu, Campari, Orange Zest

· Ingredients:
o 30 ml Roku
o 15 ml Umeshu
o 15 ml Campari

· Garnish:
o Orange Zest, as per your preference

· Method:
o Add all ingredients and build. Serve over a large cube of ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Jack Daniel’s India launches tip jar crowdfunding initiative in support of the f&b industry

The food and beverage industry with the restaurants and bar business, in particular, is facing grave uncertainty due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown, resulting in most of the outlets reeling under severe financial stress.

To aid and support the industry, Jack Daniel’s launched an online crowdfunding tip-jar initiative, aimed at raising money for bartenders and wait staff community, who have been severely affected due to the coronavirus outbreak. With every virtual tip that is contributed, Jack Daniel’s will provide financial support as well to build back this community.

The initiative is live now and will run till 31st May, 2020. Jack Daniel’s will promote the initiative by working with people from the industry to create awareness around the initiative and take it to a wider set of people for raising a significant amount.

The brand has partnered with the Indian Flair Bartenders Association (IFBA), a Government registered non-profit organization, which is an umbrella association for the bartending community. IFBA will collect money by providing a crowdfunding platform to people willing to help and will then distribute the amount collected to the intended recipients, ensuring the money raised reaches the impacted people directly.

Additionally, Jack Daniel’s is also reaching out separately to all the finalists of its annual nationwide cocktail competition, American Whiskey Legacy Cocktail Challenge. All the mixologists over the years who have made it to the finals of the competition across all the editions are being supported financially by the company to help them overcome the present situation.

Says Siddharth Wadia, General Manager – India, Middle East and North Africa, Brown-Forman Worldwide LLC, “We are all facing a new reality these days, but if there is a bright side, it’s that people around the world are coming together, taking care of one another and doing all they can to support each other. Given the unprecedented situation, Jack Daniel’s stands committed towards extending support to one of the most important members of our community – the bartenders and the wait staff – who form the cornerstone of the Jack Daniel’s family. We urge people to come forward and support this initiative.

The President of IFBA, Rohan Carvalho added, “IFBA India is committed to support individuals and families of hospitality professionals at this critical time in our country. As a non-profit organization, it was our duty to bridge the gap between them and our donors. On behalf of IFBA India, I would like to thank Jack Daniel’s and Brown-Forman for stepping up when it matters the most. This online initiative would help us make a huge difference to those in need and with this kind gesture it gives me and all of us at IFBA India a hope to succeed in the mission we have undertaken. I am humbled and would like to extend my gratitude for supporting this campaign.”

Grey Goose launches House of Change initiative for Bartenders

From being one of the leading vodka brands globally, Grey Goose is the go to vodka choice for most consumers today. Ambrosia spoke to Aastha Gupta, Brand Manager – Premium White Spirits (INDIA & SEA), Bacardi India Private Ltd on their new initiative called House of Change.

How important is this program to the Grey Goose brand?
Bartender advocacy has always been one of the key foundational pillars in our brand’s history and the bartending community holds great importance to us. In these unprecedented times, Grey Goose wanted to support learning to help the community weather the storm, so that bartenders are able to return to their craft even stronger than before.
India has some of the best bartenders in the world. The House of Change program is aimed at these professional bartenders who already provide the highest level of drink experiences to consumers. Our goal is to help them refine their softer skills by accentuating not only their talents behind the bar, but a 360-degree development of their personalities and their service style.

What kind of brand recall do you expect from consumers watching this program?
Our House of Change initiative is created for the bartending community. Bartenders embrace health and wellness, seek advanced training and career enriching experiences and have a strong sense of community and camaraderie. Each bartender has unique interests and hobbies, but the common underlying thread is the desire to grow. Through this program we tried to bring alive our Brand promise by uniting the bar community around their shared passion for trade and hospitality, while providing a platform where they can polish their skills and engage with and celebrate their community. As Grey Goose, our commitment to our partners goes beyond their professional role – our goal is to support them in all aspects of their career and personal development, as well.

What is the size of the program in terms of bartenders and what are the consumer views you expect to get?
We are proud to say that bartender participation has grown since the program launched three years ago. This year, we received an overwhelming response with more than 500 entries for the participation and we welcomed 200 registered participants.

What is your digital media plan for this exercise?
House of Change is aimed at the bartending industry and was promoted through our Bacardi brand ambassador team and our partners. Our advocacy team have built a strong community and we were pleased to see them share the opportunity across their network.

Was this a specific program for India?
House of Change is a specially curated local multi-faceted advocacy program run by the India Grey Goose team specifically for the needs of the Indian talent, to support them in marking their foray into the global scene with a competitive edge. This program is running for the third consecutive year.

What kind of market response do you expect after this virtual initiative? 
House of Change is a program curated with the hope that it benefits the bartenders in a positive way, setting them to discover a journey from a job to a clearly defined purposeful career with a point of view.

How has the Grey Goose brand evolved in India?
Grey Goose was one of the first super premium vodka brands to be present in the Indian market. It has grown from a desirable brand that is looked highly upon to a brand that is much loved and consumed during occasions big and small.

One illicit liquor trade case per day reported during COVID

Nakul Pasricha is the President of Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA), a non-profit organisation working towards building up authentication eco-systems in country to support economic, industry and consumer development. In an Interview with Ambrosia he provides deep insight about the current situation of the liquor industry.

Why does liquor matter to state excise and what should they do during such a crisis?
Excise revenue from alcoholic beverages has always been an important source of own tax revenue for states in India. According to Reserve Bank of India study (State Finances: A Study of Budgets of 20192-) state excise duty on alcohol accounts for around 10-15% of own tax revenue of most states.

Post GST implementation, its significance has increased as revenue from state excise (from alcoholic beverages) and stamp duty and registration fees (mainly levied on sale of property) are now the major sources where state governments have autonomy to levy taxes. If one were to exclude SGST (rates of which are decided in the GST Council) from states’ own revenues, the share of state excise and stamps and registration fees in states’ own revenues has increased significantly, from around 20% to 40%, in the post-GST regime.

Table: States revenue as Excise duty (Rs in crore)
2018-19 (RE) 2019-20 (BE)
All states + 2 UTs 1,50,657.95 1,75,501.42
Uttar Pradesh 25,100 31,517.41
Karnataka 19,750 20,950
Maharashtra 15,343.08 17,477.38
West Bengal 10,553.36 11,873.65
Telangana 10,313.68 10,901
Top 5 earner listed above
Source: State Finances: A study of Budgets of 2019-20; RBI

Smuggling or illicit liquor has always been a concern for revenue authorities, how can they handle this during such a crisis?
Smuggling will always remain a challenge with excise authorities until all states come together to form a national pricing policy. Taxes and prices can have a major impact on curbing this illegal trade but it also need to be supported by strong governance and high-level security. Smuggling, refilling and illicit trade can be curbed to a large extent, if all states upgrade their existing systems including upgradation of anti-counterfeiting and supply chain measures. For example, more than 22 states in India are using Tax stamps for revenue protection, but, still out of all, only few have upgraded their tax stamps with digital traceability mechanism. The ability of tax stamp issuers, brands and others involved in tax stamp programmes to monitor and record complex supply chain data in real time is something that could only have been dreamed of a few decades ago. But integration with technology has made it possible and extremely easy.

How much do you estimate counterfeiting has increased during COVID-19?
Liquor products have always been on higher priority for counterfeiters. We have noticed that during the COVID-19 lockdown there has been a spike in crimes related to liquor, making excise officials busy preventing illicit liquor trade. According to media sources, in last 30 days, almost one case per day had been reported in India.

Fraudsters have some ingenious methods of making illicit liquor. For example, many people started making liquor from hand sanitizers. According to a Delhi Police data, they have arrested 155 people in 147 cases under the Excise Act and 18,556 bottles of liquor recovered in the first two weeks of April during the ongoing lockdown. In Kochi, cops have seized over 8500 litres of spirit in multiple raids. In Bihar, which is a prohibited state, 900 cartons of illicit liquor were seized on way to state. In Hisar, officials have seized over 2 lakh liquor bottles during the lockdown period. These are few mere examples.

Some States have started home delivery models. What is your opinion on that?
A technology enabled home delivery solution can help enforce social distancing, but one need to ensure that what the consumer is getting is genuine and safe. There is a need to increase consumer awareness about the dangers of illicit or counterfeit liquor. Most of the liquor bottles carry anti-counterfeiting features but how many consumers check those or insist on a bill? It could be a good opportunity for Government to engage consumer in authentication process as well as in ensuring legitimate sale. If Government can make a mechanism and ensure consumer participation in authentication at point of delivery, it will be a game changer.

How can technology help curb illicit liquor?
With the advancement of desktop publication and smart scanning technologies, it is becoming easy for counterfeiters to replicate product labelling. It is crucial to understand how to protect the product and its packaging from physical attack as well as maintaining a secure supply chain. Even an expert cannot identify the difference between fake vs. genuine products. In this scenario, authentication technologies have played an essential role in combating counterfeiting. While physical technologies are essential for protecting product label and packaging, the recent advancement in digital technologies has open new ways for brand/authorities in faster authentication, monitoring the supply chain, traceability & data intelligence.

Beware of Online frauds while ordering home delivery of alcohol

– Bhavya Desai

With the center allowing the sale of alcohol online in many states, an unprecedented rise in the number of online frauds while ordering alcohol have been reported. Most of these cases are based of social media accounts, especially Facebook where fake profiles in the name of wine shops/retailers have been created along with a number to order the products from.

The consumers call the number provided and are asked to make part or full payment of the products ordered by providing the card details, resulting in the money debited from their card by the online fraudsters.

If you are a consumer who is looking to order alcohol online then it is important to first note if your state is allowing home delivery of alcohol or not? For instance, consumers have been commonly misinterpreting that home delivery is currently allowed in all states resulting in them falling prey to such scams.



The list of the state/city and the method in which they are allowing delivery are below:

State/City How orders are taken

Delhi – E-token

Odisha – Online order and home delivery

Tamil Nadu – Online order and home delivery

Punjab – Order through call and home delivery

Pune – E-token

West Bengal – Online order and home delivery

Mumbai – Order through call and home delivery

Chhattisgarh – Online order and home delivery

Kerala – Book online and collect from store

Currently most of the ordering for home delivery across the states are being done via state govt apps or online platforms governed by the state regulators. Punjab and Mumbai are the only exceptions to this rule where the consumer can call for home delivery of alcohol.

But as reported in our previous article (see article: Maharashtra allows home delivery of Alcohol – sans Mumbai), since Mumbai is in the red containment zone there are no home deliveries that are permitted in the city. Also with wine shops not allowed to operate due to the lockdown in the city, officially they can’t deliver alcohol even if you ordered them.

Making things situation worst for the consumers currently is the reduced banking staff to report the fraudulent transactions. Consumers have had to wait for a longer time than usual while calling the banking hotlines to report such incidents on finding out that they have been duped.