Category Archives: news

Delhi govt. allows city bars to stay open till 3 am

With Delhi showing the way will Mumbai follow suit. Perhaps the commercial capital of India will want the city to mix business with pleasure. Additional taxes will help boost the government finances.

The Delhi government has granted permission to all pubs and restaurants serving liquor to stay open till 3am — a move aimed at elevating the Capital’s nightlife, which could help revive the hospitality industry that is still reeling from the pandemic, and increasing employment opportunities.

A formal order is likely to be issued soon, people familiar with the matter said, adding that the government is coordinating with Delhi Police and other agencies for the safe implementation of the new timings. Most pubs and restaurants, barring some exceptions, are currently allowed to stay open till 1am.

Though Delhi’s new excise policy was implemented on November 17, 2021, the change in operating hours will not kick in until a specific order is issued. Though Delhi’s new excise policy was implemented on November 17, 2021, the change in operating hours will not kick in until a specific order is issued.

The Delhi government has granted permission to all pubs and restaurants serving liquor to stay open till 3 am — a move aimed at elevating the Capital’s nightlife, giving a shot in the arm to the hospitality industry that is still reeling from the pandemic, and increasing employment opportunities.

Zorawar Kalra, MD, Massive Restaurants says that it will have a huge positive impact on the entire industry and the economy of the city as all stakeholders will benefit.

The government benefits due to added tax and excise collections. The employees benefit due to added shifts requiring additional people. The customers benefit as they get vibrant nightlife and the freedom to dine at whatever time they choose. And the industry benefits due to the potential of added revenue.

Abhinav Jindal, CEO & Founder, Kimaya Himalayan Beverages had this to say “Delhi Government’s recent announcement for restaurants and bars to remain open till 3 am is an appreciated move showcasing Delhi as a progressive city on the world map. We welcome this decision as a part of the industry.

This cosmopolitan city will allow people to enjoy themselves at their convenience without rushing due to time restrictions. Moreover, it will not only encourage and provide ease of doing business in the city, but will also add up to the revenues of the hard-hit HORECA industry which sees newer opportunities after two years of the pandemic.

In addition to this, this will also help us all promote responsible drinking among consumers. They will not be under the pressure of finishing drinks, rather enabling them to enjoy for longer hours and responsibly. Further enhancing experience for consumers and industry. Look forward to witnessing this positive change in Delhi’s nightlife!”

In an official government note, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who holds the excise portfolio, asked the department recently to extend the closing time of restaurants, and to ensure that no establishment is subjected to harassment if it stays open till 3am.

“As part of our policy of ease of doing business and also to bring some cultural and nightlife activity in the national capital, which will further enhance the employment opportunity of our people, the Delhi government approved the New Excise Policy in November 2021 allowing the operating timings of restaurants up to 3am in consonance with the operational timings of NCR cities including Gurugram and Noida. The final implementation is being coordinated with the other agencies including Delhi Police,” read the file noting signed by Manish Sisodia.

“In the meantime, the excise department of Delhi, for all practical purposes, [is] to consider the closing time of restaurants as 3am, and no restaurant will be subject to any harassment on account of operation up to 3am,” the note added.

Among NCR cities, Gurugram allowed pubs to remain open 24×7 while in Noida, pubs can operate till 2am. In Gurugram, pubs were allowed to allowed to open till 6 am last year but the new policy announced by the Haryana government allows such outlets to remain open 24×7. In Noida, since April 2019, all pubs can operate till 1am and this can be extended to 2 am for a fee.

Though Delhi’s new excise policy was implemented on November 17, 2021, the change in operating hours will not kick in until a specific order is issued. For example, another key change in the policy — lowering the drinking age from 25 to 21 — is yet to be implemented because the Delhi government is yet to amend the Delhi Excise Act.

While Delhi Police has not issued an official response, a senior officer said they were not aware of any such order yet. “The Delhi government has not consulted with the Delhi Police while issuing the said order. When the order was notified, the Delhi Police had raised concerns related to law and order, traffic disorder, as well as safety and security of citizens, especially women,” said a senior officer, who is aware of the matter.

There have been demands to extend the operating hours since the excise policy was implemented last November, and a group of representatives of the National Restaurant Association of India met Sisodia recently to urge the government to push the change through.

“Restaurants have already paid the excise fee as per the new policy, but continue to be restricted to the old operating timings – leading to huge business losses in this critical recovery phase for the industry. Non-implementation of this most important change is putting the industry into much deeper distress than before. This will surely negate the gains that are expected from the reforms undertaken by the Delhi government,” said the NRAI representation submitted to Sisodia.

According to Rahul Singh, trustee of NRAI, restaurants not serving liquor in Delhi are allowed to operate 24 hours if they so choose, but restaurants serving liquor operate with an L-17 licence, which only permits the service of liquor in independent restaurants till 1 am.

To be sure, the 24-hour service of liquor is allowed in restaurants inside five-star hotels, and those located in the arrival or departure terminals of IGI airport.

Restaurants serving liquor in Delhi need multiple licences from different agencies to operate in Delhi, but only the excise and police licences specify timing restrictions. The health, and shop and establishment licences given by the municipal corporations, the food safety licence given by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, and the fire licence given by Delhi Fire Services, don’t have any timing specifications.

Restaurateurs welcomed the Delhi government’s move

“Delhi is truly a world city, the capital of our nation, and the most visited city too. Tourists as well as the residents truly deserve a global experience. With longer office working hours and the commute, there is always a paucity of time for patrons to have a relaxed evening. Extending service of liquor in a restaurant will provide relief from binge drinking. This will increase jobs in the hospitality sector, and more revenues to the city’s exchequer. While some will question the law-and-order aspects, one has to realise that when there are people on the street and the city is vibrant, there is less crime. Look at examples of global cities and even our own airports, railway stations which operate 24/7,” NRAI’s Rahul Singh said.

Sanjeev Mehra, president of Khan Market Traders’ Association, however, cautioned against the move. “It will also not lead to any increase in business for many of the regular traders and shop owners. But the move will definitely put additional burden on Delhi Police, which is already overburdened, and may lead to increase in law-and-order issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BJP slammed the Delhi government’s move. “The new excise policy is going to destroy the future of Delhi’s youth. Permitting restaurants to serve liquor till 3am is nothing but promoting use of alcohol among people. It may also lead to law-and-order situation in the capital,” said Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, leader of opposition in Delhi assembly. Delhi satellites Noida and Gurugram come under Uttar Pradesh and Haryana respectively, and both states are ruled by the BJP.

Punjab looking at different state excise policies, to shore up exchequer

The newly formed Punjab government of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is contemplating upon allotting liquor vends through a tender system in its bid to shore up revenues from excise. However, the traders are not open to this idea and want continuation of draw of lots. In Delhi where AAP has been ruling the new excise policy has been welcomed not just by the industry, but also consumers. The Minister of Finance, Harpal Singh Cheema has directed officials to study excise policies of other states and plans to roll out the policy soon. Punjab is likely to pick up inputs from Delhi and other states before it announces a new excise policy for 2022-23 sometime in June to be effective from July 1. The excise department has already initiated informal discussions with the trade to understand their requirements while boosting the exchequer.

Like many states, Punjab’s major source of revenue is from excise. It has estimated the revenues for the current financial year at ₹7,002 crores, with an increase of 20% from ₹5,794 crores of 2020-21. According to media reports, the excise department has already achieved the revenue target for 2021-22.

In end March, the AAP government renewed the 2021-22 policy for a period of three months to those existing licensees who will give 1.75% excess revenue over minimum guaranteed revenue (MGR) of financial year 2021-22 for their respective groups and zones in order to maintain stability in the liquor trade. The minimum guaranteed revenue of groups and zones is estimated at ₹1,440.96 crores for this three month window and the revenue target is expected to be ₹1,910 crores.

The MGQ of Punjab made liquor (PML) called desi, Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL), beer and imported foreign liquor (IFL) of each group and zone has been increased by 10% of the corresponding first quarter of last financial year of the respective group and zone. Further, to allow retail licensees to lift liquor as per their requirement, the amount of additional fixed license fee has also been increased. The ratio of fixed and open quota of PML shall be 30:70 as was prevalent during financial year 2021-22.

It may be mentioned here that the government of Capt. Amarinder Singh had allotted vends through a draw of lots till 2019-20 and in the last two years it extended the trade licenses of those who guaranteed generating 12% excess revenue over the fixed minimum guaranteed revenue. It is learnt that the government is planning to increase the reserve price and license fee of liquor vends and also to increase the size of the group up to ₹20 crore, having 7 to 10 vends.

The government is on a mission mode to fill the coffers. The Finance Minister is on record stating that despite high liquor consumption in the state, it has been able to generate enough for the exchequer. “This is our mission now. We have to fill the coffers.” While lauding the Delhi excise policy, the Minister talked about basic difference between liquor consumers in Delhi and Punjab. “While Delhi consumes Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), Punjabis consume Punjab Medium Liquor (PML). We will have to work out our policy taking into consideration all these points.”

AAP national convenor and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal had stated during the run up to the election that the AAP government would look at liquor and sand for generating funds.

Ironhill builds largest microbrewery in the world

Ironhill India in Bangalore is located in the IT hub near Marathahalli and is spread across a lavish 1.3 lac sq. ft. making it the largest microbrewery in the world. With installation art at every corner and an ambience to match, the new outlet will serve eight varieties of original craft beer. The space can accommodate more than 1800+ people at a time and makes a perfect venue for events, exhibitions and a night out as well that can be taken up with social distancing. Since the Bangalore launch the brand has established footprints with a swanky new outlet in Nellore and Rajahmundry as well. Teja Chekuri, Managing Partner, Ironhill India gives more details.

How did Ironhill India begin its journey?

Ironhill, the wonderland of breweries started its journey in 2017 at Vizag. We wanted to be the place for people from all walks of life to chill at, with our range of brews and hip ambiance. This was followed by Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Nellore, Rajahmundry and Bengaluru, with Ironhill Bengaluru being the largest microbrewery in the world. All Ironhill outlets have something unique about them that makes them stand out.

We are also, the biggest microbrewery chain in the country with a total of seven most happening microbreweries across Southern India and gearing up to other parts of the country.

Our aim from the beginning has been simple, to give our patrons a taste of the brewtiful life, with expansive spaces, galvanising ambiance, trippy music, bespoke food menu, and tasty brews to quench the thirst for magical experiences. We cater to everyone, from beer connoisseurs to newbies, regulars to one-offs, colleagues to friends, and we are just getting started!

How different are the challenges managing outlets in the US and those in India?

From a holistic perspective, it is about running all our outlets efficiently and professionally and, in that sense, there is not much of a difference. Where the difference does arise though, is in the culture, the rules and regulations, and the needs of our patron. However, we have learned and dealt with those differences with the aim of providing the best hospitality experience across the board.

Any reason for beginning your journey in the South of India?

Being from this part of the country, we saw the massive scope, the relatively uncrowded hospitality scene, and of course, the lack of awareness about, as well as presence of good microbreweries. So, we entered the microbrewery scene in the South with the sole aim of catering to the local demographic present here and introducing world-class craft beers and indeed a world-class hospitality experience to our patron. With the burgeoning demographic that sought magical experiences, it made complete sense for us to open our microbrewery in the south.

How different are your retail outlets from the competition?

We are all about the beer and food, however, that isn’t to say that our cocktails are far behind. We provide a holistic experience, with larger-than-life spaces, a majestic ambiance, music across genres, an extensive food menu that takes influences from local as well as world cuisine, you name it, and we have. We are all about crafting experiences that are as magical and as perfect as they come.

What is your game plan for India?

Now that we have a solid footing in the southern part of India, we are looking at aggressively expanding and establishing a pan India presence in the next three to five years.

What is the scope for expansion of your craft beer outlets?

We are in expansion mode, and you will hear about us soon from all parts of the country.

What was the impact of Covid on your business?

Undeniably, Covid put a spanner in the works and caused us losses. However, we have a very proactive team and that meant when normalcy was restored, we got back to business on a war footing. Having gone through the tough times relatively unscathed, we are now absolutely gung-ho about the future prospects, as of now business is brisk and we are hitting numbers that are even better than pre-pandemic times.

What kind of styles of beer do you offer at your outlets?

We believe in innovation and experimentation, and hence we launch new brews ever so often. There are staple brews of course like the Wheat Beers, Blonde Ales, Cider, etc, but we also have new beers every month based on the season, like the Mango Ale, Mango Saison, Kiwi Cider, Coco Brown Ale, to name a few.

What kind of food menu do you offer at your outlets?

We have a healthy mix of grub-inspired by local cuisine as well as world cuisine. We have ensured that we have an extensive menu, and we cater to the palates of people from varied backgrounds, so, it would be fair to say, that we have it all.

How important is location for your outlets?

Location is a prerequisite to running a successful business. Space, high footfalls, demographic, spending power, presence of competition, and many such factors are taken into account before deciding on the location of our outlets.

ABD India wins ‘Distiller of the Year’ at Icons of Whisky India 2022

Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD), maker of iconic products like Officer’s Choice Whisky and Sterling Reserve, won the ‘Distiller of the Year’ high commendation at the Icons of Whisky India 2022.

Instituted by the London publication Whisky Magazine, Icons of Whisky celebrates the people, places and products that make exceptional contributions to the dynamic whisky ecosystem.

Speaking on the occasion, Shekhar Ramamurthy, Executive Deputy Chairman, ABD stated, “It is a great honour for ABD to be recognised by the industry. We have always kept the consumer central to our brands and have phenomenal success in Officer’s Choice, the 3rd largest whisky brand globally, and more recently, Sterling Reserve which is amongst the fastest growing worldwide.”

Indian liquor trends pre and post COVID

The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to impact India since its arrival in spring last year. The government initially reacted by imposing a national lockdown from 23rd March to 4th May last year. The on-trade was completely closed, as were most liquor shops in every state. Places of work shut down, so many young office workers left the urban centres. With the on-trade stifled, retail purchases and consumption of beverage alcohol at home became the norm in most mainstream categories. In India, however, women and younger consumers still feel uncomfortable drinking in front of more conservative parents and family members at home. Limitations on space and refrigeration favoured spirits over beer, RTDs and – especially for young urban women – wine, all of which are usually consumed cold.

The implications of the pandemic response for India’s status as a federal republic soon became clear. The importance of excise duty income from alcohol, tobacco and fuel was brought into sharp relief as revenue streams dried up and the diminishing income from national taxes, such as GST, were used to offset fiscal shortfalls at state level. Most states responded by increasing excise duties – often suddenly and steeply – as well as charging taxpayers one-off cess payments, commonly levied by central governments for a specific purpose. Unusually, this cess (tax on tax), commonly levied by central government for a specific and clearly defined purpose (and not shared with state governments), has been applied in a number of instances at state level as a Corona-cess. Some states have been more reluctant than others to review, reduce or cancel such supposedly temporary measures. For instance, Andhra Pradesh – where the government had tried to enforce prohibition before the pandemic – imposed a 75% excise duty incre for two days just as the national lockdown ended last May; and on the same day, Delhi imposed a 70% cess on the maximum retail price (MRP) of all liquor, which remained until 7th June.

The timing of the lockdown could not have been worse, especially for beer. The category relies on young urban drinkers and after-work occasions and its peak season for consumption was about to start. When lockdown ended, bars and restaurants re-opened in most states, but were limited to 50% occupancy, and workers were slower to return to offices. Many are still working from home or – during Q1 2021 – have returned to it.

Compared to some countries, where citizens often remained risk-averse and pessimistic after the first lockdown, Indian consumer confidence seemed to bounce back quickly. Many Indians assumed – wrongly – that their everyday hygiene challenges afforded them a high degree of natural immunity to the coronavirus.

The past year has confirmed that India is squarely a brown spirits market. Whisky absorbs two-thirds of consumption in this market; brandy – with a strong presence in the south – takes 20%; and rum takes around half of that. In a total market that has shrunk by around one-fifth, whisky declined only slightly less than brandy and rum, which fell around one-quarter. Beer and RTDs suffered precipitous falls, deprived of many of the venues and occasions that had driven consumption forward. All clear spirits witnessed steeper declines in consumption than dark spirits: in each category, sales of domestically produced brands bottled in India (BII) fell away faster. Even allowing for the experimentation evident in categories such as Irish whiskey, consumers sought out brands that they knew, had earned equity and had consistent quality. In short, they sought out certainties.

Two other fundamental shifts have also occurred. Firstly, the premiumisation trend – evident before the pandemic – saw some importers shift their focus to retail, increasing its offering of high-end brands, which were previously targetted at Duty-Free and at the on-trade. Disposable income spent on going out to eat and drink before the pandemic was instead often redirected to premium-and-above products for at-home consumption. Secondly, as a corollary to this and confirming the pressure on the mainstream, was down-trading out of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), either bottled in origin (BIO) or BII.

Budget-conscious consumers instead chose either country liquor or illicit alternatives, having long been deprived of licensed outlets in which to purchase their nips.

The on-trade closure has also impacted routes to market and the supply chain and it increasingly determines choice. When all outlets closed, some states permitted home delivery, which many thought heralded the long-expected rise of the e-commerce channel. In reality, this was an expedient option for retail outlets: e-commerce has not seen a consequent increase in regulation or investment since. On the contrary, drinks ordering apps, such as Hipbar, appear to have been actively discouraged.

The effects of a six-week shutdown of alcohol supply lasted long after it ended: restocking and logistics issues extended out-of-stock occurrences well into the summer months. Importers often found it difficult to source supplies as exporters were reluctant to ship to trading partners in an uncertain economy, not least because they wanted to avoid passing on rising logistics costs to consumers.

One of the responses, driven by leading country liquor suppliers, has been the emergence of intermediate or medium liquor produced locally: this refers to a price band of distilled liquor sold under licensed quota in certain states – presently Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh only – competitively priced between country liquor/IMIL (Indian-made Indian liquor) and IMFL. Commonly the price, set by the state, is at a 25% premium to the country liquor price, a similar proportion lower than IMFL pricing.

This system has the additional benefits of almost guaranteeing state excise income and reducing the occurrence of country liquor-related health issues through better-quality product. In theory, this model should be attractive to many more states. In practice, its implementation may be limited by the relative scarcity of country liquor distillers able to produce medium liquor of the requisite quality. Nevertheless, with investment and a little covert encouragement from the states, that provision will doubtless evolve over time.

In a decentralised India, the domestic beverage alcohol industry relies on a relatively small number of states for its success. The top three states – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal – account for one-third of India’s population. The top six states account for half of the population. West Bengal is the only corporate state: the beverage alcohol industry is regulated directly through a state body. By contrast, the five largest states in the south are each home to beverage alcohol corporations.

This complexity and large size of India means that there are very few companies that are truly national. Even those that are considered national – thanks to a contract bottling network – still retain large regional brands in their portfolios. There is a small number of multinationals twinning domestic production with imports that are focussed on urban distribution shared among importers and wholesalers. India has a larger number of local distillers aspiring to convert their regional origins into a multi-region or national presence; and there are many smaller distillers, the majority of whom supply locally. Most distillers, therefore, will only be trading in one or two jurisdictions and navigating one or two bureaucracies. For the larger players, these challenges are manifold.

The second half of 2020 saw the Indian beverage alcohol market emerging quickly and largely unscathed from Covid-19 and lockdown. Leading spirits companies in particular were reporting quarterly revenues and volumes that had recovered to pre-pandemic levels. This was in spite of the on-trade remaining stifled, e-commerce failing to expand and the regulation and excise duty rises imposed by most states. However, by the second quarter of this year – the beginning of the new financial year for most corporations – this initial optimism about rapid recovery has somewhat evaporated.

The picture, though, is mixed. India’s federal state model shows up the inconsistencies between states: decisions can often be arbitrary, poorly thought through and political rather than practical, but a successful model in one state can be swiftly adopted in another. On the one hand, the Delhi state government’s legislation lowering the legal drinking age from 25 to 21 is positive for the industry. On the other, Andhra Pradesh will join Bihar, Gujarat and some other smaller states and territories to prohibit alcohol for around 250m people, which is nearly one-fifth of the population.

It cannot be overstated how the pandemic and its effects demonstrated the importance of beverage alcohol revenues to individual states’ budgets. Some state governments recognise this and are approaching their beverage alcohol policy with pragmatism by listening to the industry more attentively.

The key issues revolve around the temporary and permanent changes brought about by the pandemic. Office work may have changed permanently, calling into question whether or not urban on-trade lighthouse accounts will recover. It is uncertain when occupancy rates in on-trade venues rise above the current 50% constraint. The medium liquor system may see expansion into further states. It is also questionable whether premiumisation will persist or the second Covid-19 wave will dent consumer confidence fundamentally.

The wider economy, of course, is a determining factor. Declining disposable income has particular relevance for beverage alcohol spend. The industry is circumscribed by its investment in advertising and promotion. The pandemic has sharpened the senses of many executives and players, but left others close to collapse, unable to survive further uncertain events. States have pursued short-term solutions throughout the pandemic and it is unknown if this approach will persist. However, it is likely that the distilling capacity of the domestic industry will not grow. This has implications for all, given the contract-bottling model that has enabled the largest players to become truly national.

General Forecast Assumptions

On-Trade – In some states, the on-trade had re-opened up to 85% of its former capacity by Q1 2021. However, the occupancy restriction to 50% remains, so the real throughput is also likely to be at 50%. This will continue to affect beer and RTDs. Furthermore, on-trade sub-channels are re-opening at different rates.

Restaurants opened faster than bars; and bars faster than night venues. Whilst this appears to affect wine and premium spirits in higher-end outlets, the impact will be mitigated by the flexibility of suppliers, many of whom have switched attention to retail and targetting wealthier consumers.

Medium Liquor – Consumers in some states are now being offered a wider choice. Those who had traded down to country liquor may choose medium liquor instead of IMFL. Currently this is available in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, but more states may institute this. A significant number of consumers may prefer the taste and the brands on offer in the category to IMFL.

E-commerce – When three of the larger eastern states – West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkand – permitted home delivery of alcohol, it was thought e-commerce would, at last, be stimulated by the lockdown conditions. They were soon joined by Orissa and Maharashtra. However, steep delivery charges, regulatory uncertainty, a reluctance to invest and a poor delivery-logistics framework continue to hamper growth, as well as the nature of Indian e-commerce defined on the invitation issued by the West Bengal authorities as “handling the electronic ordering, purchase, sale and home delivery of alcoholic liquors from licensed food [and liquor] outlets”. Retail competitors required to pay for annual licences have lobbied against the channel as well. Some significant platforms – Amazon, Flipkart (Walmart), Big Basket, Swiggy, Zomato and the mobile app Hipbar, reportedly backed by Diageo and, in Mumbai, Living Liquidz – responded to state-level invitations to get involved after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of home delivery from licensed retail. However, it has become clear that any bureaucratic encouragement of home delivery has primarily been one of a range of responses to the crowds that gathered outside liquor shops last year and, while recurring lockdowns may help to accelerate e-commerce, the channel will not significantly impact the industry for the foreseeable future. Informal delivery, where customers call up the liquor store and get an order dropped off by moped, already existed and will continue.

Regulation – Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, had previously imposed a cess of 20 per bottle of beer. West Bengal, the fourth most populous state, increased consumer tax by 30%. Rajasthan, the sixth most populous, enacted both, adding20 per bottle and imposing a 10% increase in consumer tax. Their approach is unlikely to change. Additionally, the election in Bihar state did not return a government willing to reverse prohibition. Andhra Pradesh’s government was unable to enact prohibition but has discouraged some national players by making trading there problematic. However, it is assumed there is no foreseeable regulatory movement throughout the forecast period.

Consumer Base Expansion – India’s population is approaching 1.4bn, with less than half being of legal drinking age. The actual number of alcohol consumers is believed to be closer to 160m, only 7.5% of whom are women. Per capita rates for beer and RTDs remain low at around 1.2 litres for men and 150ml for women, re-calculated at 10 litres and 1.25 litres on estimated drinking population numbers. Wine has similar rates to RTDs, spirits are 1.8 litres per capita and nearly 15 litres on a re-calculated basis. There are more younger consumers joining the potential drinking population every year. Uptake by women reportedly increased during the pandemic.

At-Home Consumption – This trend is likely to persist beyond the pandemic. Wealthier consumers of premium spirits and imports spend for indulging at home and for gifts. The wedding industry will revive: most wine suppliers are focussing on higher-end offerings, educating consumers about its accessibility and suitability during meals, as well as drinking before and after. Beer and RTDs will find difficulty switching as their core message is based on going out and socialising rather than at-home consumption, and most consumers have insufficient refrigeration space at home.

Key Market Factors

Cultural – The legal drinking age varies from state to state. In most states it is 21, but 25 in the populous states of Haryana and the Punjab. In Maharashtra it is 21 for beer and wine, and 25 for liquor. Bigger states with a drinking age of 18 include Rajasthan in the north and Kerala in the south. Delhi is about to lower its LDA from 25 to 21.

Three states with larger populations prohibit alcohol. Gujarat has been dry for the longest, with Bihar and now Andhra Pradesh having imposed prohibition more recently. Outcomes are mixed, with Bihar and Andhra Pradesh reportedly having some of the highest per capita consumption rates for beverage alcohol nationally once illicit alcohol is factored in.

Demographic – A key driver of consumption has been urbanisation, particularly among younger LDA drinkers. The lockdown appears to have reversed this, with young office workers returning to their parents’ houses in smaller cities, towns and the countryside.

The overall population is nearly 1.4bn and grows by 15–20m or more every year. The drinking population is considerably smaller: at least half can only afford very cheap country liquor, which is largely unbranded alcohol with an estimated market of 250–285m cases.

The rapidly growing middle classes, who can afford premium-and-above, may number more than 150m. However, 98% of middle-class women and more than 20% of men are said not to drink for philosophical, religious or cultural reasons.

Some 49% of the population is aged under 19, and few drink, although younger consumers are generally more willing to consume alcohol than many of their parents. This leaves a market of between 25m and 30m people with the inclination and resources to drink IMFL.

Economic – There is little state support in India and wellbeing is the individual’s responsibility. With livelihoods uncertain but a young population inclined to optimism, the second Covid-19 wave may hit confidence hard and a volatile economy will see more cautious expenditure. Excise rates vary substantially from state to state even before the pandemic, which exacerbated the difference when states imposed cess payments to make up fiscal shortfalls.

A number of observers mention a shift to modern retail. This is consistent with state governments looking to secure the revenues they can expect from beverage alcohol and also with consumer expectations around improving retail venues.

Trade – Difficulties with the supply of stock have been widespread. It is reported that lack of supply inhibited sales, especially of premium products. The pandemic hindered logistics and rendered delivery more expensive. Brand-owner allocations have also reduced the agility to respond to demand.

A further element is that the phenomenon of medium liquor in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh offers more settled revenue for states and gives consumers an alternative to IMFL. One leading country liquor supplier reports now selling twice as much medium liquor as it does country liquor per month. India is unusual in that spirits demand is significantly more developed than demand for beer. While there is some interplay between the two with bang-for-buck consumers keen to maximise alcohol content per rupee delivery, there were some signs that demand for beer was beginning to develop separately.

However, strong beers of 8.5% ABV still represent more than 82% of demand. The first lockdown also affected trade, and was both severe and ill-timed – six weeks without sales, just before peak season for beer and RTDs. The on-trade revived in the second half of 2020 with near full re-opening in some states, but night and weekend curfews, combined with 50% capacity limits, continue to constrain this channel. The uncertainty of lockdown and the unavailability of liquor drove some consumers back down to country liquor, although not in the south where it is banned in five large states.

There was more limited up-trading by wealthier consumers. However, mainstream products, brands and players have been affected with some of the less financially secure domestic players closing for some months. In some of the larger states, competition in the beverage alcohol category is relatively open. In more there are state corporations set up as wholesalers and frequently as retailers too. In all states, beverage alcohol participants must navigate a web of licences, quotas and taxes, and sometimes incentives.

In certain key states, the regulatory authorities that control pricing have rationalised their price lists. In Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana the correction has been downwards for higher-priced imports.

It is reported that there is shift to modern retail. This is consistent with state governments looking to secure revenues from beverage alcohol and also with consumer expectations around improving retail venues.

Political – Breweries have been investigated by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) which has now resulted in fines for collusion and operating a cartel. The reputational impact is more serious than the financial cost.

Bira 91 ‘Imagined in India’ limited-release beers pleasing the desi palate with innovative flavours

The late English author Gilbert Chesterton once wrote: “Let a man walk 10 miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented.” He’s right, of course — there’s something about the combination of the warmest season and an ice cold brew that just works. Summer in Delhi is unbearable and we do not have an opposition for this. And, how most of us beat the heat is by gulping down frosty and flavourful beers. Delhiites can now rejoice as India’s popular beer brand Bira91 brings you a range of four new limited-release beers – Bollywood IPA, Kokum Sour, Brown Ale, and Mango Lassi – as part of their ‘Imagined in India’ initiative. Team Ambrosia was part of the preview tasting, hosted on April 07 2022 at the beautiful QLA, in Mehrauli, Delhi. The tasting was followed by dinner, curated by Chef Vicky Ratnani, and a live music set by DJ MoCity and DJ Nida. It was what we call a perfect dreamy evening filled with all the finer things in life.

A melange of flavours

The ‘Imagined in India’ beers are made with indigenous products and are inspired by the raw creativity of today’s India led by emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and startups combined with the cradle of flavours that find a home here.

The Bollywood IPA variant has a tropical twist, inspired by west coast India Pale Ales that were born in California, while Kokum Sour has traditional ingredients from the Konkan coast. We loved the Brown Ale – a blend of English Nut Brown Ale and the Antwerpian Amber with notes of coconut and vanilla. Fans of lassi would appreciate the taste of their Mango Lassi version that merges its Wheat Ale and a milkshake beer into one.

Ankur Jain, founder and CEO of the company, said, “For this generation of consumers, beer means flavour, and we deliver on that promise. ‘Imagined in India’ is an attempt to bring together the many flavours of India and its creative energy fuelled by emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and startups. Each beer is brewed with unusual ingredients – local and seasonal – which makes them unique.”

He further added, “Each of these flavours originated at the Bira 91 Limited-release Taproom at Koramangala, Bengaluru, where they received tremendous consumer love and affinity. The flavours were voted as the top-ranked choices by beer lovers, which inspired us to bring them to consumers across the country.”

Earlier, back in 2021, Bira 91, in collaboration with non-alcoholic drinks brand Svami, had rolled out Cucumber flavoured Kölsch. The Bira 91 x Svami Cucumber Kölsch is brewed with pure German Pilsner malt, a fresh cucumber flavour and the delicate caress of the finest German noble hops, with an IBU of 18 and an ABV of 6%. It is a crafted blend of bitter-sweet notes and cool cucumbers creating a crisp, balanced, and revitalising beer.

Staying true to the brand’s playful image, Bira 91 encourages consumers to be more experimental and creative, while exploring new flavours in everything, including the beers that they drink. The new ‘Imagined in India’ range is yet another exciting testament to delivering on that promise.

Collaborations for community growth

To bring alive the flavours, Bira 91 has collaborated with Kulture Co, a curated platform spearheading the new wave of Indian Graphic Art across borders. The brand on-boarded contemporary Indian artists from the Kulture Lab – artists who are breaking the mould and taking modern India to new frontiers – to conceptualise and design the packaging of the four new flavours.

Channelising their art and creativity on a new canvas, artists Ranganath Krishnamani, Osheen Siva, M. Sajid and Prince Lunawara showcase a vibrant palette of local stories around shared identities painted onto these beer cans, paying homage, and narrating the story of our home country.

Commenting on the idea behind designing the packaging of Bollywood IPA, artist Ranganath Krishnamani said, “Conceptualising the packaging of a flavour so bold and dynamic, that it takes you to the heart of Mumbai, where all things Bollywood originated, was truly exhilarating. Incorporating the charming art deco cinemas in Colaba, the iconic ‘kaali-peeli’ cabs, and the vintage colour scheme was the perfect way to capture Bollywood on a can.”

Designer of the Kokum Sour packaging, Osheen Siva, too expressed his thoughts behind the masterpiece and said, “Kokum is a tangy flavour, as Indians have developed a taste for since childhood. To depict a taste so loved yet so new to the beer industry was exciting. I conceptualised it to be something offbeat and loud. For me, the can had to give consumers an idea of what they were picking up from the rack when indulging in a Bira 91 Kokum Sour Beer.”

“Imagined in India to me is being authentic, raw and connected to our roots. Capturing the taste of Brown Ale that recognises uplifts and celebrates diverse communities of India and having the essence reflect in the artwork on the packaging was a great experience,” M. Sajid, who designed the Brown Ale packaging, enthused.

Prince Lunawara, who creatively illustrated the Mango Lassi can said, “India loves mangoes and merging the flavour with beer is as creative as it can get. Through the can, my idea was to celebrate this creativity and the beauty of India’s flavours.”

The limited release beers will retail in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Pune.

According to Expert Market Research, the India beer market stood at a value of nearly 371 billion in 2020. The industry is expected to reach approximately 662 billion by 2026, rising at an estimated CAGR of 9.2% during 2022-27.

Himachal Pradesh new liquor policy aims to boost revenues, while curbing illicit trade

The Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, under whose chairmanship, the Cabinet met announced that the government intended to collect Rs. 2,131 crore revenue from state excise. This would be a jump of nearly Rs. 264 crore and a 14% jump in excise revenues over the previous financial year.

The policy includes renewal of retail excise vends for the financial year 2022-23 at the renewal fees of 4% of the value of unit/vend. The objective is to gain adequate enhancement in government revenue and curb the smuggling of country liquor from the neighbouring states by a reduction in its price.

Annually, Himachal Pradesh earns Rs. 1,800 to 1,900 crore from excise, which includes the sale and consumption of foreign liquor brands and country liquor sold in open markets, vends, bars and restaurants. Excise is one of the biggest source after the sale of power, mining (minerals) and tourism in the hill state.

Country Liquor prices reduced

The brands of Country Liquor will be cheaper as license fees has been reduced. This will help in providing good quality liquor at a cheaper rate to the consumers and they won’t be tempted towards purchase of illicit liquor and evasion of duty will also be checked.  In new excise policy, the 15% fixed quota of country liquor for manufacturers and bottlers to be supplied to the retail licensees has been abolished. This step will give the retail licensees to lift their quota from the suppliers of their choice and further assure supply of good quality country liquor at competitive prices. The MRP of country liquor will be cheaper by 16% of existing price.

The fixed annual license fee of bars has been rationalised by abolishing the area specific slabs of license fee. Now throughout the State there will be uniform license slabs based upon the room capacity in hotels.

Fixed license fee of bars in tribal areas reduced   

As Himachal Pradesh is known for its tourism, the government intends to provide better facility to the tourists visiting tribal areas and also provide relief to the hotel entrepreneurs, the rates of annual fixed license fee of bars in the tribal areas.

To keep a check on illicit trade and to monitor the manufacturing, operations of liquor, its dispatch to wholesalers and subsequent sale to retailers, it has been made mandatory for all the above stakeholders to install CCTV cameras at their establishments. The government also has imposed stringent penalties to ensure that irregularities detected by the department in liquor bottling plants, wholesale vends and retail vends are curbed. An effective end to end online Excise Administration System shall be setup in the State which shall include the facility of track and trace of liquor bottles besides other modules for real time monitoring.

As per the policy the Renewal fee (non-refundable) for each vend/unit shall be paid @ 4% of the value of vend/unit (MVV) for 2022-23 while filing application for renewal. b) Renewal Fee of Country Fermented Liquor (Lugdi/Jhol) Vends Sr. No. Value of vend Renewal Fee (i) Upto Rs. 1.00 Lakh Rs. 20,000 (ii) Above Rs. 1.00 Lakh upto Rs. 10 Lakh Rs. 25,000 (iii) Above Rs. 10.00 Lakh Rs. 30,000.

The policy said that the Zonal Collectors/District Incharges shall not be allowed to proceed with the conditional renewal of any vends/units. Sub-vends shall be granted to a retail licensee within the State subject to payment of annual license fee of Rs. 8,00,000 or 10% of the vend value whichever is lower subject to the minimum of Rs. 4,00,000. Whereas, keeping in view the issue of smuggling of liquor into the State, the sub-vends shall be granted within a distance of 100 meter from the State border on the payment of annual license fee of Rs. 3,00,000. The sub-vends shall be approved and
granted by the Collector of the Zone concerned.

Fixed License Fee

The fixed license fee on annual basis (including renewal fee) for various Licenses of Foreign Liquor, Country Liquor and Beer per license for the year 2022-23 have been changed.

Type of license Fixed license fee per annum

L-1 (Wholesale vend of IMFS/Foreign liquor/Beer/Wine)Minimum license fee of ₹20,00,000/- for lifting upto 3.00 lakh proof litres. Beyond 3.00 lakh proof litres an additional ₹3.00 per proof litre
L-1A (Storage of Foreign Liquor in Bond)₹2,00,000/- excluding such other fee as may be prescribed
L-1B (i) Wholesale vend of Foreign Liquor to L-1 vend only₹4.25 per P. L. on Foreign Spirit and ₹1.50 per B.L. of RTD Beverages subject to minimum of ₹4,00,000/-
Exclusively for Beer₹1.50 per B.L. subject to minimum of ₹4,00,000/-.
L-1BB (wholesale vend of imported foreign liquor) from outside India to L-1 & L-2 as well as to the Club and Bar license holders.Annual fixed license fee ₹5,50,000/-
L-1BIO (License for space holder in Custom Bonded Warehouse for wholesale of imported BIO brands to L1BB)Annual fixed license fee ₹10,50,000/-
L-1C (Wholesale vend of foreign liquor by distiller or bottler only).₹6,00,000/-
L-1E for export of IMFS for non-manufacturer wholesale licensee for interState sale₹3.00 per proof litre subject to minimum of Rs. 10.75 lakh per annum.

The war in Ukraine could impact how much your favourite beer costs

Some beer prices are climbing as most parts of the process cost more – from aluminum cans to transportation.

The Ukraine accounts for about 20% of beer’s usage of barley. It’s one of the top five global producers of barley. So brewers, particularly at a global level, will be watching the supply and price of barley.

Molson Coors, which brews Milwaukee’s Miller Beer, and other major brewers have so far been able to absorb the higher costs.

For Craft Beers it’s really hard to absorb price increases in raw materials without passing that along to the customer.

According to a new RaboResearch report (Rabobank), malting barley prices in western Europe are currently 50% above levels seen a year ago. This is anticipated to have a major impact on maltsters, for whom barley inputs make up 65% of costs.

For brewers, the impact is less severe as barley accounts for only 5% of costs. But RaboResearch indicates there is a risk that protectionism could derail the entire value chain, such as in the case that western Europe were to stop exporting malting barley or other grains to countries outside the EU and brewers might not get the right quantity or quality of malt.

21 Mar 2022 – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a prominent domino effect on the prices of agricultural commodities, with analysts forecasting critical impacts on both supply and demand of food products. While energy prices are rising as a result of international sanctions on Russia, costs for grains, packaging and logistics are anticipated to surge on.

RaboResearch indicates there is a risk that protectionism could derail the entire value chain, such as in the case that western Europe were to stop exporting malting barley outside the EU. Russia produces around 13% of global barley, while Ukraine accounts for 5% (2020/21 crop). Together, these countries account for 30% of global barley exports, a significant amount.

Although the Black Sea region is a major producer of barley, very few maltsters in the rest of the world depend on its crop, as the barley produced and exported from the region is mainly feed barley.

Although some maltsters in China might use Ukrainian barley, malt plants in the rest of the world are mostly sourcing from other regions. Ukraine and Russia are major barley export nations, accounting for 28% of global barley exports in 2020.

Most Black Sea region barley flows find their way to countries without a strong beer culture. In 2019/20, 64% of Russian barley was exported to the Middle East and 9% to North Africa.

Energy costs have also risen because of the conflict. While prices of oil and natural gas have almost doubled over the past 12 months, there are many points in the value chain where higher energy costs will impact the cost of beer.

Energy is used to turn barley into malt, but RaboResearch estimates that this accounts for just 1% of the cost price of beer. The energy used in the brewing process represents 3% of overall costs. Malting barley prices in western Europe are currently 50% above levels seen a year ago.

But the largest impact is seen in the cost of packaging materials (~25%), which have a major energy component. RaboResearch estimates that the total cost price of beer has risen by 15% as a result of rising energy costs.

“The discussion about the possibility of beverage companies introducing returnable packaging has resurfaced in recent years as part of broader discussions about sustainability. We wonder if, in light of rising fuel prices, the idea might be starting to gain momentum,” states RaboResearch.

Although sea freight is much more energy efficient than road transport, some brewers might be tempted to follow AB InBev’s example to brew Stella Artois near its US consumers. While localising production can save on fuel costs, the diseconomies of scale of a smaller location could offset these benefits.

Although many brewers have focussed on international brands and the premium end of their product offering in recent years, a broad portfolio of products and channels is desirable to offset current risks, concludes RaboResearch.

Russia, the world’s fifth largest country in terms of overall beer drinking, was one of the few major markets around the world where beer consumption actually rose during the pandemic-hit year of 2020. It also grew by a further 3.3% during 2021.

That is why the decisions from Carlsberg and Heineken to pull out completely from Russia will have been difficult.

For Carlsberg, in particular, this is a big deal. The Danish group owns Baltika, Russia’s biggest brewer, which has a market share of just shy of 30%. Carlsberg, which last year made 10% of its total sales and 6% of its operating profits in Russia, had already said that it will stop selling its flagship brand there and will not make any new investments in the country.

Diageo India reports continued growth momentum, thanks to premiumisation

In the unaudited third quarter, Diageo India has registered an increase in net sales of 15.9%, reflecting a strong quarter driven by resilient consumer demand in the off-trade channel, continued premiumisation and recovery of the on-trade channel. Underlying net sales increased 14.3%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch.

Diageo India said that the Prestige & Above segment net sales grew 20.0%, with strong double-digit growth in our scotch portfolio. However, Popular segment net sales declined 1.7%, while priority states were flat. The Gross margin was 44.1%, down 49bps on a reported basis, driven by input cost inflation, partially offset by favourable product mix and productivity savings. Adjusting the one-off sale of bulk scotch, underlying gross margin was 44.3%, down 31bps.

Ms Hina Nagarajan, CEO, commenting on the quarter and nine months ended 31 Dec. 2021 said, “We have delivered a strong quarter, continuing the growth momentum amidst rising inflation. The broad-based growth in the Prestige & Above segment demonstrates the strength of our portfolio, and the continued agility and resilience of the team. We launched the second limited edition of Epitome Reserve Craft Whiskey, a Peated Indian Single Malt. We continued to expand distribution of the renovated Black Dog Scotch, Signature Whiskey and our innovation offering of Royal Challenge American Pride Whiskey.

We also launched ‘In.thebar.com’ this quarter, our digital platform to drive focussed consumer engagement and celebrations.

Healthy operating cash flow has enabled us to reach debt free status as on Dec.31st 2021. CRISIL upgraded its rating on United Spirits Limited’s long-term bank facilities to ‘AAA / Stable’ while reaffirming its ‘A1+’ rating on the short-term bank facilities.

External operating environment in the near-term will remain challenging, including potential impact from Covid-19 and rising cost inflation. We continue to work with agility and remain focussed on strengthening our portfolio while driving productivity across the value chain. We remain confident in the market potential and continue to stay focussed on our strategic priorities to drive long-term value creation for all our stakeholders.”

The Reported EBITDA was Rs. 491 Crores, up 27.9% and the reported EBITDA margin was 17.0%, up 159 bps, primarily driven by operating leverage on fixed costs. It said that Interest includes a one-off non-debt related charge. Underlying interest was Rs. 16 Crores, down 56.8% driven by reduced debt and lower interest rates.

The profit after tax was Rs. 291 Crores, up 26.7% and PAT margin was 10.1%.

Nine month’s performance highlights:

The reported net sales increased 22.6%, lapping soft prior year comparators. Growth was underpinned by strong consumer demand in the off-trade, premiumisation trend and continued momentum in at-home consumption occasions. Underlying net sales increased 21.9%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch.

The Prestige & Above segment net sales increased 26.9%, lapping soft comparators and favourable product mix. The popular segment net sales increased 11.0%, while the priority states increased 10%. The Gross margin was 44.3%, up 113bps, primarily driven by favourable product mix, productivity savings from everyday cost efficiencies and lapping a one-off inventory provision. It said marketing investment was up 24.9% as the company lapped a reduction in promotional activity during the same period last year due to Covid-19. Marketing reinvestment rate was 8.0% of reported net sales.

The reported EBITDA was Rs. 1,084 Crores, up 88.2% and the reported EBITDA margin was 15.6%, up 544 bps primarily due to recovery in gross margin, operating leverage and lapping one-off costs in the prior year. Excluding the one-off items, underlying EBITDA was up 430 bps.

The reported interest cost was Rs. 52 Crores, down 62.3% driven by debt, interest rate reduction and a net reversal benefit of non-debt related interest charge. Exceptional items include a one-off provision towards an additional demand in relation to a historical customer dispute and tax includes a one-off reversal of 19.2 Crores.

The profit after tax was Rs. 634 Crores, up 343.2% and PAT margin was 9.1%.

United Spirits Ltd reports 27% PAT for third quarter

United Spirits Ltd (USL) has reported a 27 % year-on-year surge in profit after tax (PAT) for the third quarter of financial year 2021-22, which came in at Rs. 291 Crore, up from a Rs. 230 crore during the same period last year.

The PAT margin in Q3 FY22 was 10.1%, the company said. In a press release attached with the quarterly results, USL said it reached “debt-free status” by December 31, 2021, due to its “healthy operating cash flow”. The reported net sales in the three-month period ending December 2021 increased to Rs. 2,885 Crore, marking a 15.9% YoY jump.

The surge was driven by resilient consumer demand in the off trade channel, continued premiumisation and recovery of the on-trade channel, USL said. Underlying net sales increased by 14.3%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch, it added.

“Prestige & Above segment net sales grew 20%, with strong double-digit growth in our scotch portfolio,” the company said. Popular segment net sales, however, declined by 1.7%.

The earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA) came in at Rs. 491 Crore, which was 27.9% higher as compared to the year-ago period. The EBITDA margin came in at 17%, up 159 bps, primarily driven by operating leverage on fixed costs.

“We upweighted our investment in marketing to support strategic priorities and on-going demand growth initiatives,” USL said.

Gross profit came in at Rs. 1,273 Crore, as compared to Rs. 1,082 Crore in the second quarter. Gross profit margin was 44.1%, down 49 bps on a reported basis, driven by input cost inflation, and “partially offset by favourable product mix and productivity savings”, USL said.

Diageo India chief executive officer Hina Nagarajan, while commenting on USL’s Q3 performance, said “external operating environment in the near-term will remain challenging, including potential impact from Covid-19 and rising cost inflation”.

“We continue to work with agility and remain focussed on strengthening our portfolio while driving productivity across the value chain. We remain confident in the market potential and continue to stay focussed on our strategic priorities to drive long-term value creation for all our stakeholders,” the CEO added.

The operations remained broadly normal for the quarter with sentiment gradually inching up seen in improved mobility and strong festive period helped demand. While input cost pressures continue, the global supply chains remain disrupted with port congestion and container availability issues. However, efforts, it said, are on to ramp up of innovation and renovation agenda, premiumisation trends continue, launched digital platform In.thebar.com during the quarter. It said it aligned itself with the new policies in Delhi and West Bengal, and tax rationalisation on BIO spirits in Maharashtra and West Bengal.

On the outlook, it said it was aiming to retain current demand momentum despite challenging near-term environment, expanding on new productivity initiatives, renovated portfolio well placed to benefit from ongoing premiumisation, and final stages of strategic review of popular brands.

‘Nolo’ is soon going to froth in Asia

Specific to Asia, Carlsberg has five brands brewed in China and one in Malaysia, while it has made its presence felt in Hong Kong and Singapore markets, it is now keen on expanding to other markets in the region. Alcohol free segment accounted for the largest revenue size of USD 2 billion in 2017 owing to the increasing adoption of healthier lifestyles coupled with the benefits of non-alcoholic beer in China, India, and Japan.

Growing at over 7.5% CAGR

According to a Graphical Research report, the Asia Pacific non-alcoholic beer market size was valued at USD 4.3 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow at over 7.5% CAGR from 2018 to 2024. As of now, China is leading in this segment in Asia and the drivers are the adoption of a healthy lifestyle along with shifting consumer preferences towards ‘Nolo’. The report said that increasing awareness for negative health effects of alcohol consumption is among major factors boosting market penetration.

China holds nearly 30% market share in ‘Nolo’

China holds nearly 30% share in launching new non-alcoholic beer products. As mentioned earlier, Carlsberg has four brands – WuSu Fresh Orange & C; WuSu Pineapple & C; Xixia Fresh Orange & C; Xixia Pineapple & C, and Chongqing Beer AFB in China and Carlsberg Alcohol Free in Singapore and Hong Kong while in Malaysia it vends Nutrimalt which is said to be nonalcoholic malt beverage that is nourishing and packed with vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin C & B complex. It is said to be a great energy booster after a workout.

Manufacturers are launching new beverage brands with different flavours to expand consumer base as it is estimated that there is a sizable market which is looking at healthy brews. An increased attention on both physical and mental health has been cited as a cause of the growth of nolo products, which are increasingly popular among younger consumers.

However, in India the trend is not that perceptible, though non alcoholic brews are making the rounds, mostly propped by young beer drinkers who are either switching from standard beers to non-alcoholic variants or they are willing to taste new beers, both with alcohol or no or low alcohol content ones.

India sees slow but steady growth

Some of the ‘Nolo’ in India include Budweiser 0.0%; Heineken 0.0% non alcoholic lager beer; Kingfisher Ultra non-alcoholic beer; Hoegaarden 0.0% non-alcoholic beer; Kingfisher Radler – non-alcoholic malt drink; Coolberg Cranberry non-alcoholic beer; Crofters non-alcoholic beer; and Barbican. Carlsberg is said to be exploring the market opportunity in India with regard to ‘Nolo’. But it has been steadfast in its commitment to creating a culture of responsible drinking by promoting moderate consumption of products and addressing alcohol-related harm in society. “We therefore aim to celebrate the positive aspects of moderate beer consumption and to position beer as a relevant and responsible choice with a role to play in the ‘good life’ to which modern consumers aspire.”

Young beer drinkers call the shots

As per a survey by Mintel about 40% of young beer drinkers in India are interested in switching from standard-strength beer to low calorie or non alcoholic variants of the brew. The survey pointed out that internet users who were contacted and who had consumed beer in the past six months were interested in exploring alternatives to beer.

Carlsberg’s ‘Sail’ strategy

Carlsberg has set sail for the next five-year journey with its 2016 ‘Sail’ strategy. Since its launch, ‘Sail’ 27 has been providing a clear overall direction for Carlsberg resulting in a healthy and strong company. The company said that “In developing Sail 27, we have aimed at keeping and sharpening our strong strategic, organisational and financial dynamics while ensuring that our direction-setting was refreshed and that our new strategy reflects expected consumer, customer, societal, regulatory, economic and geopolitical trends.”


The Chief Executive Officer Cees ‘t Hart said, “SAIL’27 is the exciting next step in the evolution of Carlsberg. Co-created by a large group of employees and leaders, and built around our purpose, SAIL’27 has clear choices for brands, categories, markets and capabilities, and steps up our ambitions for top- and bottom-line growth.” In essence, SAIL’27 focusses on five strategic levers – portfolio, geographies, execution, culture and funding the journey – for which the company has made distinct strategic choices, defining the focus of our efforts and resource allocation.


Our strategic levers and choices should be viewed as an integrated set of activities that together will drive value for all stakeholders. “SAIL’27 is built around our purpose of brewing for a better today and tomorrow, and our ambition of being the most successful, professional, and attractive brewer in our markets,” Cees ‘t Hart adds.

Collaborative effort 


SAIL’27 is a collaborative, company-wide effort, co-created by over 200 Carlsberg employees from more than 30 different markets. “Talents, experts and leaders from all over Carlsberg Group have brought their day-to-day knowledge and fresh ideas into this new strategy. They have assessed the impact of the current strategy on their local business or function, shared learnings and trends they see impacting the business and challenged our thinking on the future strategy. By bringing such a diverse set of voices the process we have created an even stronger strategic path for Carlsberg,” says Marcela Linke, Director, Group Strategy. 

Carlsberg said that the beer category continues to offer attractive long-term volume and value growth opportunities, though with different growth dynamics between categories and markets. Our portfolio choices target these growth opportunities. In addition, the company sees further attractive growth opportunities for selected categories beyond beer. Today, the Group has attractive widespread geographical presence and no. 1 or 2 positions in 22 markets across Western Europe, Asia and Central & Eastern Europe. While market dynamics are different in the three regions, they all offer appealing long-term revenue and earnings growth opportunities.

Carlsberg ‘Nolo’ brands grow by 11%


Carlsberg’s recent financial statement revealed its ‘Nolo’ brands grew by 11%, making it one of the most successful areas of the business for the brewing giant. While sales of other household names owned by Carlsberg shrunk (namely Tuborg and the Carlsberg brand itself), the ‘nolo’ range demonstrated quite a sizeable growth, which is perhaps indicative of a shift in consumer habits towards alcohol-free beverages.


Carlsberg said it saw good results for its recent launches in the category, including Baltika Zero Grapefruit and Raspberry, Brooklyn Special Effects and Somersby 0.0. In addition, the brewing group entered the Asian market with similar ‘nolo’ products in 2020 too, with the launch of Chongqing Beer AFB in China and Carlsberg Alcohol Free in Singapore and Hong Kong.

What’s driving ‘nolo’ growth?


“Brewers have had to adapt to unprecedented market conditions and one area of success is Carlsberg’s low-ABV or alcohol-free ‘nolo’ brands, which are notable for 11% growth as consumers continue to moderate their alcohol intake,” said Ryan Whittaker, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData.

“Increased health consciousness, which includes both physical and mental health concerns, is causing many to reduce their alcohol intake, and the pandemic has brought all of this to the fore.”


According to GlobalData, 28% of global consumers claim to be buying less beer during the pandemic and approximately 27% of consumers say that they are extremely concerned about their physical health. What’s interesting is that these trends correlate with age, with millennials being both the most extremely concerned about their health and most likely to be buying less beer than before the pandemic. Even otherwise, the millennials are known to experiment, try out new products and that is driving manufacturers to innovate.