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Diageo posts Interim Results

Encouraging return to growth, good cash generation and increased dividend

Diageo posted its Interim Results, half year ended on the 31st December 2020 showing encouraging results, both in India and Globally which has prompted a rationalization of their portfolio and paring of debt. The Interim Results stated that the net sales (£6.9 billion) were down by 4.5%, as the organic growth of 1% was more than offset by unfavourable exchange. The operating profit (£2.2 billion) also declined by 8.3% due to the unfavourable exchange and a decline in organic operating profit.

Some of Diageo Products

However the organic net sales were up by 1%, despite a significant impact from Travel Retail and on-trade restrictions. The net sales in North America were also up by 12.3%, offsetting declines in other regions, except for Africa which was broadly flat. The growth in North America was driven by resilient consumer demand, share growth of total beverage alcohol, positive category mix and the replenishment of stock levels by distributors and retailers.

The report also stated that the organic operating profit was down by 3.4%, driven by the channel and category mix. The productivity benefits from everyday cost efficiencies largely offset cost of goods sold inflation. The Net Cash from the operating activities was up by £0.7 billion to £2 billion, and free cash flow was also up from £0.8 billion to £1.8 billion. 

This primarily reflected a lower tax payment and working capital benefit driven by reduced creditor balances at the end of fiscal 2020, as a result of reduced sales demand and cost control measures triggered in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Creditor balances also recovered to more normalised levels.

The Basic eps of 67.6 pence decreased 14.6%. Pre-exceptional eps declined 12.8% to 69.9 pence, driven primarily by unfavourable exchange and lower operating profit. However the interim dividend increased 2% to 27.96 pence per share.

The improvement comes from the strong sequential performance in all regions compared to the second half of fiscal 2020. However, the manufacturer expects continued impact in the second half of fiscal 21 from on-trade restrictions and disruption to Travel Retail.

Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, Diageo

Speaking about the results Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive, Diageo said, “We delivered a strong performance in a challenging operating environment, returning to top line organic sales growth during the half. North America, our largest market, performed particularly strongly and ahead of our expectations. Consumer demand has been resilient and the spirits category continues to gain share of total beverage alcohol. Across other regions we delivered strong sequential improvement compared to the second half of fiscal 20. This reflects improved market share performance through excellent execution in the off-trade channel, and the partial re-opening of the on-trade channel in certain markets.”

Menezes expects the ongoing volatility and disruption in the second half of the year, particularly in the on-trade channel, which will make performance more challenging. However the medium and long-term growth drivers and opportunities for the business remain intact and he is confident in the strategy, the resilience of the business and Diageo’s ability to emerge stronger. The organic operating margin improved compared to the second half of fiscal 2020 increased driven by the operating leverage and tight control of discretionary expenditure. The decline compared to the first half of fiscal 2020 reflected an adverse channel and portfolio mix. Menezes expects the margins to improve as the on-trade and Travel Retail recover and with the continued benefit of everyday efficiency. 

Diageo India Results

In India, United Spirits reported strong numbers for the third quarter of 2020-21, even though the recovery was not as strong as expected. Despite the current operational challenges, the company was able to report Quarter-On-Quarter (QOQ) volume and revenue growth of 7% and 16% respectively and bring its third quarter revenues close to that of the same period last year. Though more than 85% of trade channels like bars, pubs, and clubs are now operational, they are operating at a low capacity which has impacted the results. Due to Covid protocols and muted celebrations, small gatherings are replacing large events. On the other hand, off trade channels like home consumption are in the upswing and home delivery is also gathering pace.

Some of Diageo India Products

The third quarter Net Profit also zoomed 79% QOQ, mostly because of the reduction in debt and fall in interest rates. There was a QOQ increase in margin and once volume recovers fully, margin is expected to improve further due to stable input costs and expected price hikes. Price hikes are muted currently due to tough market environments. There was a demand impact in Bengal, where United Spirits was forced to increase prices for its popular brands due to increase in excise rates by the state government.

Despite small improvement in the Covid situation, large celebrations and full capacity in trade channels are still a few quarters away and that explains why liquor companies have not been able to participate in the recent market rally. However, analysts say that these are short to medium term challenges and the long term story on liquor consumption in India is still intact. To increase its market share during these difficult times, United Spirits is focusing on off-trade channels. Home delivery is already showing good traction in states like Bengal and Maharashtra and similar trend is expected from other key states as well.

Diageo strategic Review of Selected Popular Brands

United Spirits Ltd. (“USL”) is also initiating a strategic review of selected Popular brands, continuing the strategy towards long-term profitable growth through premiumising the company’s portfolio. USL’s Popular portfolio comprises around 30 brands and the strategic review will focus on approximately half of this portfolio by volume. This review will not include the McDowell’s or Director’s Special trademarks.

Anand Kripalu, Managing Director & CEO, United Spirits Ltd

The strategic review is expected to be completed by the end of the 2021 calendar year. Anand Kripalu, Managing Director & CEO, United Spirits Ltd commented, “This review reinforces USL’s and Diageo’s commitment to deliver sustainable long-term growth and improved profitability, through a sharpened focus on core Popular, Prestige and above brands, including international brands. 

United Spirits management is also taking steps to reduce its debt further by selling non-core assets and by improving its working capital cycle. United Spirits is a company with strong free cash flows which will contribute towards its plans to become a debt-free company by 2022-23 he added.

Alcohol consumption patterns in India

To start off, it has been assessed by the World Health Organisation that an individual consumes about 6.2 litres of alcohol per year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), average alcohol consumption in India was 5.7 litres per person above the age of 15 per year in 2016, up from 4.3 litres in 2010. On per capita consumption, India is ranked 101 (with Moldova leading with 15.2 litres. In the immediate neighbourhood, the figure for Pakistan is 0.3 litres and China is 7.2 litres).

Moreover, about a third of India’s population consumes alcohol on a regular basis and 11% of the total number of Indians are moderate or heavy drinkers. One-third of males and one-fourth of females in India who have made it a part of their lives say, in surveys, that it causes problems to their physical health, finances and household responsibilities. But alcohol —the recent events have shown—is an intricate and essential part of the Indian economy.

Now let us evaluate state wise consumption of alcohol, measured in consumption per capita, per week in millilitres. For Toddy and country liquor, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana have the highest levels of consumption which drops to the lowest levels in states like Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat (for obvious reasons). The consumption in these states are as low as 100 ml per capita per week. Levels of Toddy consumption have seen a sharp decline in the northern state of Bihar as well, which still ranks in the medium to average range (101 – 500 ml. per capita per week).

Moving on to beer, imported wine and imported alcohol varieties, we see that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana still consume more than 300 ml. per capita, making those states the highest consumers in this category. Himachal Pradesh shows a sudden spike (101- 300 ml), and so do the north eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram and the islands of Andaman and Nicobar (>300 ml). Goa too, sees a high trend in this category, with the average between 101 and 300 ml per capita per week. The rest of the country remains quite conservative in their consumption trends of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) varieties.

Overall, it has been observed that the Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Daman and Diu, Sikkim and Pondicherry are among the highest consumers of spirits and alcohol varieties in India.

Now one of the reasons why there has been greater number of calls for bans on alcohol in certain areas is due to the fact that these regions suffer from chronic alcoholism and resultant poverty. The regular consumption of any variety of alcohol and especially country made liquor has also been found to be inversely proportional to family income, thus providing further evidence for this trend.

Consumption of local brews and toddy is one of the major reasons for deaths in alcohol related incidents. In recent years, about 136 people were killed in one single incident. In January 2015, in a village in eastern Maharashtra, 94 people lost their lives due to hooch liquor contamination and resulting toxicity. The states that have prohibition in place presently are: Nagaland (since 1989), Manipur (since 1991, except the hill districts), Kerala (2014), Gujarat and Lakshadweep (on all islands except Bangaram).

India is one of the fastest growing alcohol markets in the world. Rapid increase in urban population, sizable middle class population with rising spending power, and a sound economy are certain significant reasons behind increase in consumption of alcohol in India.

Indian Alcohol Consumption – The Changing Behavior provides a comprehensive analysis of the market size of alcohol industry on the basis of type of products, consumption in different states, retail channel and imported and domestic. The Indian alcohol industry is segmented into IMFL (Indian made foreign liquor), IMIL (Indian made Indian liquor), wine, beer and imported alcohol. Imported alcohol has a meager share of around 0.8% in the Indian market. The heavy import duty and taxes levied raise the price of imported alcohol to a large extent. Alcohol is exempted from the taxation scheme of GST.

The Indian alcohol market is growing at a CAGR of 8.8% and it is expected to reach 16.8 billion liters of consumption by the year 2022. The popularity of wine and vodka is increasing at a remarkable CAGR of 21.8% and 22.8% respectively. India is the largest consumer of whiskey in the world and it constitutes about 60% of the IMFL market.

Though India is one of the largest consumers of alcohol in the world owing to its huge population, the per capita alcohol consumption of India is very low as compared to the Western countries. The per capita consumption of alcohol per week for the year 2016 was estimated at 147.3 ml and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.5% to 227.1 ml according to estimates.

The states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala, Karnataka, Sikkim, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are amongst the largest consumers of alcohol in India. The most popular channel of alcohol sale in India is liquor stores as alcohol consumption is primarily an outdoor activity and supermarkets and malls are present only in the tier I and tier II cities of India.

The trends and pattern of alcohol consumption are changing in the country. With the increasing acceptance of women consuming alcohol, growing popularity of wine and high demand for expensive liquor, the market scenario seems to be very optimistic in the near future.

The study reflected changing pattern of the consumer’s mindset towards alcohol consumption in India. 3% of the respondents who consumed alcohol favoured wine for its health benefits. Though the popularity of whisky is highest in the Indian market, its market share is expected to decrease in future.

Alcohol consumption in high-income countries witnessed constant growth, but it has been growing in low and middle-income countries as well. Before 1990, Europe had recorded the highest level of alcohol use. However, the study forecasts that Europe will not hold that title for long.

Going ahead, the world will drink more, and more people will drink as well. The research also suggests that almost half the adults across the world will consume alcohol by 2030, whereas a quarter of them will become binge drinkers.

Binge drinkers are those people who drink 60 grammes or more pure alcohol in one or more sittings, in a month.

Starting Young

Indians are not just drinking more, they are drinking dangerously as well. As many as 57 million people are facing the after-effects of alcohol addiction. A survey by the Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD) revealed that over 88% of youth below 25, consume or purchase alcohol though it’s illegal. Punjab, Goa, Tripura, Chhattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh rank high on alcohol consumption. However, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of alcohol drinkers in India.

Regulating alcohol

A few state governments like Bihar, Gujarat, Mizoram and Nagaland, have prohibited the sale of alcohol. States like Kerala, Bihar, Tamil Nadu have imposed variety prohibition since 2016. The state government of Rajasthan allows sale of liquor only until 8.30 in the evening. India has also witnessed an increase in the number of drunken driving cases. According to reports, fines from drunk driving in India in 2018 alone, was at around `6 crore.

Assam is the highest alcohol consuming state in India

In the 15-54 age group, with 59.4%, men from Assam were found to be the highest consumer of alcohol in the country. In the latest Health and Family Welfare Statistics (HFWS) in India, it has been reported that 26.3% of women and 59.4% of men between 15-54 years of age consume alcohol in Assam. This is the highest in the country and the national percentages for the same age group are respectively 1.2 and 29.5. However, in terms of percentage of the population for both men and women in the age group 15-49 years who drink alcohol about once a week out of a total population (men and women) who drink alcohol, Assam women scored 44.8% and men scored 51.9% Meanwhile, in the 15-54 age group for women, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, and Karnataka recorded the lowest alcohol consumption with 0.1%. In the same category for women, Jammu & Kashmir occupies the second position with 23% women found to be consuming alcohol. In the 15-49 age group, with 59%, men from Arunachal Pradesh were found to be the highest consumer of alcohol in the country. The HFWS report further revealed that percentage of the population of men and women in the 15-49 years who drink alcohol about once a week was found to be 45.2% and 55.1% respectively for women and men of Arunachal Pradesh. For women and men in Nagaland, the percentage of the population who drink alcohol about once a week in the 15-49 age group was found to be 65.5% and 46.4% respectively. As for the other states from the northeast, the percentage of the population of men and women in the 15-49 years who drink alcohol about once a week are – Manipur 21.3% and 40.1%; 25.1% and 42.4%; Mizoram 20.3% and 41.2%; Nagaland 65.5% and 46.4%; Sikkim 33.9% and 43.5% and Tripura 50.8% and 47.1%. The five southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala together consume as much as 45% of all liquor sold in the country. The financial position of these states is precarious as the Coronavirus lockdown completely dried up this crucial liquidity tap for them in April. Although these states consume as much as 45% of all liquor sold in the country annually. Not a drop was sold in April, and given the dire state of their revenues, these states have been anxious to make good the losses by opening up the vends, said the survey. While Tamil Nadu and Kerala top the list in revenue percentage terms at 15% each, for Kerala the tax on liquor is its single largest revenue source. The revenue share is 11% each for Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and 10% for Telangana, shows the report. Delhi is at number three when it comes to liquor revenue share with 12% of tax revenue, but its citizens swig only 4% of the national intake. Tamil Nadu has another distinction – it is the single largest consumer of liquor in the country, guzzling as much 13% of national sales, closely followed by Karnataka with 12%. Andhra quaffs 7% of the national intake, followed by Telangana (6%) and Kerala (5%). While all other states have high population, when it comes to Kerala, despite being home to only 3.3 crore people, it draws the highest revenue because among the five states it charges the highest tax rate on liquor. However nationally, Maharashtra charges the highest rate, but draws only 8% of its tax revenue from liquor – primarily because it is the most industrialised state and has many other sources of income – and also consumes only 8% of the national intake despite being the second most populous state. Twelve states – the five southern ones, Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – account for 75% of liquor consumption in the country. But uncorking the bottled spirit will also be a problem for these 12 states as they contribute to more than 85% of all Covid-19 infections/deaths as well. Among these 12 states, Kerala has the lowest national average in this at under-1%, the report said. You might associate Goa with booze and partying, but a higher proportion of people in Telangana consume alcohol than in the former. And a larger percentage of men drink in Bihar, a state under prohibition, than in Maharashtra. Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir, in that order, have the least consumption of alcohol among men. When it comes to women’s consumption of alcohol, Sikkim and Assam, with 16.2% and 7.3%, respectively, top the charts. But here, too, Telangana comes next, topping Goa. Barring Telangana and Goa, most of the states at the top are in the northeast. The consumption among rural women is significantly higher than in urban areas in most states, which could also be due to less hesitation in admitting to alcohol consumption compared to urban women. This difference in prevalence of alcohol consumption exists between rural and urban men too, but the difference is not as high as among women. Covid-19 may change many aspects of work, life and the economy, but India’s relationship with alcohol will likely remain intact. If anything, the linkages might get stronger. When the pandemic-induced lockdown was first announced, the Centre excluded liquor shops in the category of establishments that would stay open. It was not deemed to be “essential”. States backed the Centre’s stance. But as the days under the lockdown accumulated, and as the economy and tax collections slumped (with more money from the Centre not forthcoming), states started clamouring with the Centre to allow liquor vends to reopen.

State controls

India has had a conflicting history with prohibition. States have been torn between the need for revenues and the broader problems its abuse created. As a result, they have been imposing dry days, and some form of control. Some states have gone the full hog in imposing prohibition: Gujarat (since 1960), Nagaland (since 1989), Bihar (since 2016), Mizoram (since 2019), and in most parts of Lakshadweep. In most parts, states control liquor distribution. Take, for example, TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation), set up in 1983 by then-chief minister M.G. Ramachandran as the monopoly liquor wholesaler for better control over distribution. For retail, it auctioned licences to the private sector. This, in turn, led to problems, including cartelisation and customer complaints – and lower revenues to the state. Twenty years later, the J. Jayalalithaa government claimed monopoly over retailing too. It has served the state well. Its revenues jumped from `2,828 crore in 2002-03 to `31,157 crore in 2018-19. It’s also a reason why Tamil Nadu has been pushing the Centre to reopen liquor shops. Unlike the purchase of a car or a computer, lost liquor sale is lost forever. Thus, for TASMAC, which was selling 160,000 cases of Indian-made foreign liquor and 90,000 cases of beer every day, the sales might not necessarily return, reducing the ability of Tamil Nadu to fund even ongoing schemes. The time has come to ‘de-criminalise’ liquor as the state of Goa has done successfully. Considering that 50% or more of the price of every bottle finds its way to the coffers of state governments, it is preposterous that tipplers are treated with such scant respect.

Brexit deal scrutiny begins as trade document published

Commenting as the UK and EU agreed a free trade deal, Scotch Whisky Association Chief Executive Karen Betts said: “It’s very good news that the UK and EU have agreed a free trade deal, providing Scotch Whisky producers with more certainty about how we continue to export to our largest regional market. “We will now need a common-sense approach to the application of new rules and new border procedures from 1 January to help businesses manage the transition smoothly. The UK Government and EU Member States will need to be flexible with producers, logistics companies and importers as they get to grips with the significant changes that will take effect in just 7 days’ time.” Legal experts and MPs were poring over the 1,246-page document published on the morning of Boxing Day, as Boris Johnson worked to persuade Eurosceptic Tories to back it as the “right deal” for the country.

The Prime Minister acknowledged to Conservative MPs that “the devil is in the detail” but insisted it would stand up to inspection from the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers, who will assemble a panel of lawyers to examine the full text ahead of a Commons vote. But the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation, Barrie Deas, accused Mr Johnson of having “bottled it” on fishing quotas to secure only “a fraction of what the UK has a right to under international law”.

The share of fish in British waters that the UK can catch will rise from about half now to two-thirds by the end of the five-and-a-half-year transition. The EU’s 27 member states indicated they will formally back the deal agreed by the UK with Brussels’ officials within days. It covers trade worth about £660 billion and means goods can be sold without tariffs or quotas in the EU market. EU ambassadors were briefed on the contents of the deal by Michel Barnier, who led Brussels’ negotiating team in the talks with the UK.

After a highly unusual meeting on Christmas Day – with at least one diplomat wearing a Santa hat and another in a festive jumper – they agreed to write to the European Parliament to say they intend to take a decision on the provisional application of the deal. The timing of the Christmas Eve deal forced politicians and officials in the UK and Brussels to tear up their plans. MPs and peers will be called back to Westminster on December 30 to vote on the deal, but MEPs are not expected to approve it until the new year, meaning it will have to apply provisionally until they give it the green light. The agreement will almost certainly be passed by Parliament, with Labour supporting it, as the alternative would be a chaotic no-deal situation on January 1.

But Mr Johnson is keen to retain the support of the Eurosceptics on his benches who helped him reach No 10. Mr Johnson had earlier messaged Tory MPs on WhatsApp as he tried to get them all on side. “I truly believe this is the right deal for the UK and the EU,” he wrote, in a message seen by the PA news agency. “We have delivered on every one of our manifesto commitments: control of money, borders, laws, fish and all the rest. “But even more important, I believe we now have a basis for long-term friendship and partnership with the EU as sovereign equals.” He added that “I know the devil is in the detail” but the deal will survive “ruthless” scrutiny from the “star chamber legal eagles” The “star chamber” is the nickname given to the panel assembled by the ERG, including veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash. Officials in Brussels and the capitals of EU states are also beginning to scrutinise the deal, with another meeting of ambassadors expected before the new year, possibly on December 28.

The European Commission has also announced a £4.5 billion fund to help regions and industries within the bloc which will be hit by the UK’s withdrawal from the single market and customs union – including fishing communities who face losing out as the UK takes a greater share of stock in British waters. French Europe minister Clement Beaune said it was a “good agreement” and stressed the EU had not accepted a deal “at all costs”. Mr Beaune said that British food and industrial products entering the European single market after January 1 will not pay customs duties “but will have to meet all our standards”.

Celebrating 200 years of the Johnnie Walker story from Diageo Archive

Archive Manager Christine McCafferty speaks on what documents dating back to the 1820s can tell us about the Johnnie Walker story so far.

Johnnie Walker is such an iconic brand, with a truly special story, and it’s an honour to be celebrating 200 years since it all began. A big anniversary is of course a great opportunity to tell our brand story, but who needs that excuse. It’s something that I have been privileged enough to do on a daily basis since becoming the Archive Manager for Diageo 23 years ago – to everybody and anybody who will listen. And it’s a great story to tell, so who wouldn’t want to hear it. And we learn so much from understanding the origins of a brand and its journey, what makes the brand unique and what makes it tick.

Christine McCafferty

There’s so much wealth in the Johnnie Walker brand story. It all goes back to John and the grocery shop that was opened in 1820 in Kilmarnock. This is where John started selling and blending his own whiskies for his customers. This is the beginning of an amazing story of three generations of the Walker family that we have continued through to today. It’s a story of an obsession with quality, the Walker’s would never compromise on this and neither would we, and, it’s a story of the pursuit of flavour, all to give consumer’s the best scotch whisky. It’s a story of being distinctive, always wanting to stand out from the crowd, of introducing a slanted label, moving to a square bottle, and, creating one of the most famous whisky icons in the Striding Man figure. It’s a story about taking our product around the world, making it not just the number one selling scotch whisky, but the one enjoyed in every part of the globe. It’s a story about perseverance, surviving the bad times and coming back stronger again each time. And it’s a story of forward momentum, always looking forward and what comes next, with Keep Walking as the perfect mantra. I could add words like pioneering, experimental, innovative, confident, bold, brave, ambitious – all perfect to describe Johnnie Walker and those that have created it and worked on the brand. It’s unique, it has a special place in culture, in people’s lives – and everyone has a story to tell.

And my story is all about the amazing content we have in our industry leading archive and how I share this to not only to build the brand story, but to bring it to life. It is a real privilege to be able to access original documentation right back to the time of John Walker and to see what insights they can give us into the brand story and DNA. Here’s a couple of my favourite items from the archive:

Jhonnie Walker Grocery Shop Inventory list from 1825

John Walker’s grocery shop stock inventory, 1825. This inventory is the earliest record from the shop. It lists household products; wines and spirits, including whisky of course; and exotic products such as tea from China and pepper from Jamaica. It’s fascinating to see what John was selling in those initial times and the impact they no doubt had on how he felt about flavour as he started his blending journey.

John Walker & Sons annual balance book, 1857-1886 – John’s son Alexander took over the business in 1857, evolving it from a small, local shop to a thriving commercial enterprise. This stock book documents the widening range of products, including many more whiskies and different types of tea, dried fruits, and spices. These aromas and flavours inspired Alexander to create the company’s first commercial blend, `Old Highland Whisky’ and it’s a time I would love to travel to. Imagine wandering around the aisles of the shop, soaking up the atmosphere.

A pic from the `John Walker & Sons’ book by Alfred Barnard, 1893 and their Sampling Room. This book is only one of the two such copies known to exist today

`John Walker & Sons’ book by Alfred Barnard, 1893 – In 1879 John Walker & Sons opened what were considered the most advanced warehouses in Scotland. When renowned whisky writer Alfred Barnard visited the imposing new premises on Kilmarnock’s Strand Street, he noted the Walkers’ focus on innovation and craftsmanship throughout their whisky-making, bottling, and distribution processes. A true snapshot of the business at that time, this book is one of only two copies known to exist today, and gives us a truly special window into the remarkable business being ran by that time.

The Jhonnie Walker Still Going Strong image

John Walker & Sons `Around the World’ book, 1920s – By 1920 Johnnie Walker was being sold in over 120 markets. To celebrate 100 years of the business and the global reach of their brands, John Walker & Sons produced their Around the World book, which essentially is an early travelogue. The book features all the markets in which Johnnie Walker was being sold and was a thank you to their agents around the world for their contribution to the success of the business. I love how important relationships were to the Walker’s as they established their global business, just as it is for us today.

I could, of course, go on and pick examples of beautiful historical packaging, ground-breaking advertising, photographs from all around the world, and all these items have a role to play in piecing the brand story together. The items themselves are fascinating, and I love seeing how people react to seeing the original documentation that takes us back in time. But the insights that these items give us are equally as important. I like to think of myself as a bit of a detective or journalist, pulling snippets of information and materials together from various sources, to create a really rich and vibrant story relevant for any audience. There’s certainly no shortage of materials and stories.

And we continue to add to these collections by collating materials created for the brand today so we can continue to tell the brand story as it evolves for future generations. Just as we look back with pride on the legacy we have inherited from our founders and all those who have worked on the brand, we too will leave our stories in the history books for those that come next to be inspired by. It’s fascinating to think what a brand like Johnnie Walker has lived through, 200 years of world events, and, it’s exciting to think about where our journey we take us in the next 2, 20 and 200 years. I can’t wait to see, bring it on!

Women in the Dry State of Gujarat are Jumping on the Alcohol Consumption Bandwagon!

Earlier, we reported that binge drinking among women has been increasing steadily over the past few years. Thirteen percent of adult women have reported binge drinking four times a month on an average while consuming five drinks per binge. A 2019 survey conducted by TU Dresden in Germany found that Assam led alcohol consumption among women in India. However, the North-eastern state is not the only Indian state where alcohol consumption has increased drastically. Gujarat, the Dry State, is climbing up the charts steadily too.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) released recently for the year 2019-20, it was discovered that the number of women consuming alcohol in the Dry State has doubled in the last four years. The survey studied a total of 33,343 women and 5,351 men from Gujarat. 200 women (0.6 percent) and 310 (5.8 percent) reported that they consumed liquor. 

Previously, in the NFHS-4 Survey (2015-16), the sample under study in the state included 22,932 women and 5,574 men amongst whom 618 men (11.1 percent) claimed they drank liquor while only 68 women (0.3 percent) claimed the same.

A comparison between both the surveys shows that while the number of women consuming alcohol in Gujarat has doubled, the number of men doing the same has nearly halved.

Gaurang Jani, a sociologist, said “The middle class and upper middle class have embraced the party culture in recent times. As a result, women in families have also started consuming liquor. Earlier, men used to go out to drink. Now, a new culture of consuming liquor in family parties has emerged. People are throwing family parties to celebrate even small events. Moreover, kitty parties have also contributed to higher liquor consumption among women, NRIs are also bringing liquor with them and enjoying it during house parties here with relatives.”

Jani thus pointed out that the rise in party culture as well as the growing acceptability of drinking in society has contributed to the rise in the number of women drinkers.

UP Govt approves New Excise Policy

The Yogi Adityanath-led government has approved its new excise policy which is set to reduce the excise duty on the alcobev products in the state. The new policy includes number of updates that reduce excise duty in certain categories including a slew of measures as part of its new excise policy.  

The most notable change is the reduction in duty to 200% on beer from the erstwhile 280%. The shelf life of the product has also been extended to nine months. The government has also done away with the rule of needing collector’s permissions for opening liquor shops within five kms of neighbouring border/district. 

One of the other key notable change in the policy is also to move to complete digitisation of the department in the 2021-22 year, a move that is welcomed by many manufacturers. Needless to say that the since the lockdown most states have adopted digitisation, which has been working well for them. Efforts would be made to computerise all the processes and procedures of the excise department under the Integrated Excise Supply Chain Management System (IESCMS).

The new policy will also allow sale of IMFL and imported liquor in the  scotch category, with a maximum retail price of ₹ 2,000 or more, to be permissible in mono-cartons. The government is also looking at encouraging more manufacturers to invest in production of wine within the State.

Special incentives for Wines has also been added into the policy

As an incentive the wines that are made out of locally produced fruits shall be exempted from excise duty for a period of five years. However there is no clarity on how much percentage of local fruits needs to be used yet, something that will become clear in time. The local wine merchants will also be allowed to retail wine with wine taverns also allowed on its premises.

It is also now mandatory to obtain a license to keep liquor more than the prescribed limit at home now. In a statement released by the government they said, “to provide good quality liquor at economic prices, UP Made Liquor (in Tetra-pack and of 42.8% strength only) made from Grain ENA, shall be sold at an MRP of ₹ 85 through country liquor shops”. 

It is now mandatory to have a PoS Machine at retail stores

It is also now mandatory for the retail shops to install card machines for selling the liquor. Also a select premium retail vendors will also be permitted at airports. Wine-tasting facilities and sale of drinking accessories shall be allowed at premium retail vends.

Japan’s Kirin Holdings to buy under 10% stake in Indian craft beer brand Bira

According to Bira’s CEO, Ankur Jain, and a spokesperson of Kirin Holdings, the Japan-based company is buying under 10% stake in Bira, an Indian craft beer brand by investing 30 million (nearly INR 220 crore). Bira is owned by B9 Beverages, a company based in New Delhi. No further details about the financials of this deal have been released to the press yet. However, Jain mentioned that he expects the deal to be closed over the next few days.

Ankur Jain added that this investment will enable Bira to break even in the 2022 fiscal year after having reported losses in the recent years as well as in the pandemic. Furthermore, it will facilitate the plans ofthe Indian craft beer brand to launch its product in Japan in the later part of 2021.

In August, Reuters had reported that Bira was in talks with international brewing companies to sell 20%stake. Valued at $210 million in 2018 by Data Provider Pitchbook, 30% of the company is owned by theCEO Ankur Jain and his family while Sequoia Capital, the U.S. based venture capital firm, owns around 45% stake.

The craft beer products offered by the company have gained popularity recently. According to Bira, the company has a 5-10% market share of the beer market in the metropolitan cities of New Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai although it was launched in 2015.

On the other hand, due to falling sales in its home country, Kirin Holdings has been showing interest in investing in independent breweries. It owns a minor stake in New York-based Brooklyn brewery. But all international dealings have not gone well for Kirin. In the year 2015, its operations in Myanmar came under investigation as its local partner had military connections and in 2017, the company sold its loss-generating Brazilian unit to Heinken after losing market share.

Binge drinking is cool for Indian women

More women are drinking and women are drinking more,” a new survey made eye-opening claims — and not for the reasons you’d think.

Men had succumbed to alcohol long back, but women had held back. Not long ago women didn’t dare to damage their image by showing the world that she in fact drinks and enjoys it too. Now women pour and fill their glasses with more than just lemon water and juice. Wine, beer, whiskey, vodka or a cocktail; women have come to love their drinks and how!

Alcohol consumption among women is rapidly increasing, not only because she wants to relax and have fun but there’s a bigger picture here.

Nearly half of adult women report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. Approximately 13% of adult women report binge drinking and on average do so four times a month, consuming five drinks per binge. About 18% of women of child-bearing age (i.e., ages 18–44 years) binge drink.

Questions like ‘Are women more prone to absorb bigger drinks?’ ‘Do women have higher alcohol levels in their blood than men?’ are being asked and studied. Though women have had historically lower drinking rates than men, the negative effects of alcohol abuse are typically worse and more pronounced for women. The problem is exacerbated by the special dangers that alcohol poses for women. In general, alcohol affects women more strongly than men. This is both because women’s unique body chemistry interacts with alcohol differently from men and because women are on average significantly smaller than men, meaning the same amount of alcohol will have a greater impact.

Why women drink

The survey by the Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD) studied the alcohol consumption pattern in Delhi and has revealed some major reasons behind alcohol consumption among women. Rising affluence, aspirations, societal pressure and exposure to a different lifestyle is driving women to experiment with alcohol, stated the survey. The results were found among 5,000 women aged between 18 to 70 in Delhi.

Among the reasons why women drink, the survey says “mostly all social activities are centred around alcohol, and alcohol is seen as a quick and easy social lubricant, and when everyone is doing the same thing, it does not seem like a problem. It is just the norm.”

Alcohol consumption in India increased by nearly 40% and women’s alcohol market is expected to grow by 25% over the next five years.

In Delhi itself, 40% of men and 20% of women (almost 15 lakh women) are alcohol consumers; the survey quotes a report by AIIMS as saying.

The survey reveals that 43.7% women in the age group of 18-30 years consumed alcohol out of habit or desire to do so, 41.7% women in the age group of 31-45 years consumed alcohol as an occupational requirement or because of social norm.

Over 53% women above 60 years and 39.1% women in 46-60 years had alcohol for emotional reasons.

“Driven by the market forces where cocktail and berry drinks are being promoted as feel good and relaxing drinks for women, women are enticed into drinking more with a promise of good time that awaits them,” it says.

The CADD survey lists out more reasons why women drink, it says, “At times just to fit in or as a way to unwind, more spending capacity/affluence, another way of equal opportunity or pursuit at work place/profession, alcohol as a coping mechanism to stress, depression, loneliness anxiety, pain, mental and physical traumas and to cope with the needs and pressures of fast paced life.”

India has witnessed a steady rise in its consumption of alcohol in the last decade. A 2019 study by researchers from TU Dresden in Germany, concluded that between 2010 and 2017, alcohol consumption in India increased by 38% – from 4.3 to 5.9 litres per adult per year. The decade also witnessed a boom in home grown whisky and gin labels, and saw both men and women significantly altering their tipple choices and consumption patterns.

According to this survey, women in Assam consume much more alcohol than their counterparts in other states and union territories in the country. The ministry’s 2019-20 data showed that 26.3% of women in Assam who are in the 15-49 years’ age category consume alcohol, which is the highest among all states and union territories (UTs).

Notably, in 2019, another survey, conducted by Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD), took stock of the men and women in Delhi and their drinking habits, and concluded that “More women are drinking – and women are drinking more.”

Women are also not just taking up important roles in breweries, but also leading alcohol brands in various capacities. In fact, Dewar’s master blender Stephanie Macleod, who created the world’s best whisky, as per the 2020 edition of International Whisky Competition, was recently awarded the “Master Blender of the Year” award.

New research has found that despite the potential health risks of exceeding national drinking guidelines, many middle-aged and young-old women who consume alcohol at high risk levels tend to perceive their drinking as normal and acceptable, so long as they appear respectable and in control.