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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.

The Macallan unveils The Reach Single Malt Whisky

The Macallan has unveiled The Reach, an incomparable single malt whisky that reflects an extraordinary moment in time and exemplifies the enduring spirit that has been at the heart of the brand for almost 200 years.

Crafted during the Second World War in a period of increasing hardship, The Reach was laid to rest in 1940 before The Macallan was compelled to close its doors for the first time in its history.

Its very existence is testament to the care and commitment to uncompromised excellence that has driven The Macallan since it was founded in 1824. It also pays tribute to those who strived amid great adversity to resume distilling The Macallan’s spirit, as well as the crafts people today who continue to uphold the brand’s values.

A rare single malt at 81 Years Old, The Reach is the oldest whisky ever released by The Macallan, crafted from a single, sherry seasoned oak cask. The dark, precious whisky is encased in an exquisite decanter created from mouth-blown, hot glass, cradled on a bronze sculpture of three hands.

Each hand represents characters in The Macallan’s history and their unique story. One commemorates the Distillery workers of 1940 who crafted the spirit into existence, in challenging times, over eight decades ago. Another is the hand of one-time chairman, Allan Shiach, whose grandfather headed the company when this remarkable spirit was first consigned to its cask. The third is that of today’s Master Whisky Maker, Kirsteen Campbell, who carefully selected the 1940 cask used to create The Reach, deciding that now was the time to share this precious whisky with the world.

Kirsteen Campbell, Master Whisky Maker, The Macallan, said, “It is an honour to introduce The Reach. Created during a turbulent time in the world, this extraordinary expression showcases The Macallan’s history, ingenuity and unmistakable strength of character.

“The creation of many hands, The Reach has been a truly collaborative effort. It’s also a tribute to the people who made this precious whisky, and their enduring spirit which never wavered.

“Its deep auburn hue is the first hint of this remarkable whisky’s astonishing depth. Offering notes of dark chocolate, sweet cinnamon and aromatic peat, leading on to treacle toffee, crystalised ginger and charred pineapple, before giving way to an intensely rich, sweet and smoky finish.”

Reflecting its rarity and significance, The Reach is presented in unique packaging brought together by a collective of Scottish artisans. A tale of collaboration and connectivity, the result is a handcrafted quartet of liquid, glass, bronze and wood that is a fitting tribute to this very special whisky.

Sculptor Saskia Robinson created the timeless sculpture featuring three hands, producing countless drawings from every perspective before working in a physical medium. The veins, nails and skin detail are recorded in extraordinary accuracy, modelled on an artist’s impression of a hand of one of those original still men. The sculpture is cast in bronze and the glimmer of the metal contrasts beautifully with the amber whisky.

The surface of the glass decanter features subtle indentations that match the fingerprints of the bronze hands which support it, while a beautiful cabinet crafted using wood from an alien elm tree, which is thought to have been on The Macallan Estate in 1940, houses the decanter.

A film has been created by renowned London-based photographer Nadav Kander working closely with his art director, Matt Willey, who was previously the art director at The New York Times Magazine. Featuring original music composed and recorded by Scottish band Mogwai, recently shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize, it tells the story of The Macallan’s legacy and the collaborative process behind The Reach.

Highly limited to only 288 decanters worldwide, The Reach will be on display at The Macallan Estate Boutique from 9th February 2022 and later in The Macallan domestic and travel retail Boutiques. The RSP is $125,000/£92,000/€110,000.

Russia’s alcohol market

As vodka comes under the spotlight amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, IWSR takes a deeper look at the Russian alcohol market.

Russia is the 4th largest alcohol market in the world in terms of volume, with imports accounting for 9% of total consumption. Whisky makes up 5% of Russia’s spirits consumption, and a third of its spirits imports. 91% of Russia’s whisky consumption is from imported whisky. While there have been calls to ban Russian-made goods in light of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, boycotts of Russian vodka brands will have a fairly minimal impact on Russian vodka producers. Any significant impact is more likely to be symbolic.

While Russia is the largest vodka producer in the world, with over 30% of global production, the vast majority (over 90%) of Russian-made vodka is consumed domestically.

Outside of Russia, the UK, Germany, the US and Israel round out the top five markets for Russian-made vodka, although volumes are relatively small.

Russian vodka accounts for under 3% of all vodka consumed in Europe (excluding CIS) by volume.

In the US, the world’s second largest vodka market by volume, Russian vodka accounts for less than 1% of all vodka consumed. Approximately half of all vodka consumed in the US is made in the US. While vodka is the country’s largest export, Russia is also a relatively large producer of beer and wine – though much of this is consumed domestically.

Russian beer makes up 1% of the global beer market. Over 99% of Russian beer is consumed domestically.

Similarly, Russia produces 2% of the world’s still wine, with almost all of it consumed locally.

Russia also produces 6% of the world’s sparkling wine, with 99% of it consumed domestically.

No discounts or offers on Alcohol in Delhi says Excise Department

Following complaints of congestion outside vents and the ongoing danger of COVID-19, the excise commissioner of Delhi advised liquor outlets in the city on Monday to cease giving discounts and rebates on alcohol brands. In an order, the government urged licensees to stop offering concessions, rebates, or discounts and threatened action against shops that did.

Crowds were observed thronging the vends as booze stores offered discounts and incentives such as ‘buy one get one free.’ There were also reports of law-and-order difficulties, and police were sent in to quell the mob. People in Jagatpuri, where a liquor store refused discounts, had lately resorted to throwing stones, breaking the shop’s glass panes, and injuring the employees.

“It has been brought to the notice of the excise department that as a result of discounts being offered by the licensees through their retail vends, instances were reported of large crowds gathering outside the liquor stores leading to law-and-order problems and causing inconvenience to locals,” the order by the excise commissioner stated.

As a result of liquor retailers lowering prices on various brands of alcohol by up to 40%, many consumers began acquiring and storing significant quantities, believing that the programmes would be discontinued at the end of the current fiscal year. According to the ruling, the Excise Department also learned that the programmes and discounts given at liquor stores were contributing to “unhealthy” market practises. The Covid pandemic is not ended, and the risk of infection remains, according to the directive, which adds that large crowds are expected to exacerbate the issue in Delhi.

“Commissioner Excise hereby orders that all L7Z licensees shall neither give concession, rebate or discount on the maximum retail price of liquor and hereby directs all L7Z licensees to strictly abide by Rule 54(3) of Delhi Excise Rules 2010. If any such instance of discount/rebate/ concession is brought to the knowledge of the undersigned, action as per Rules and Act as well as penal action as per tender document will be taken against defaulting licensees,” read the order.

The intent of the government in allowing discounts by retailers was to promote consumer choice and healthy competition and determination of price by market forces, it said. “The discounting of this nature was not the objective of the government while permitting the discounts in the new excise regime. The licensees are seen indulging in various promotional activities through social media and banners, hoardings outside the stores which is a non-permissible activity under the Delhi Excise Act, 2009 and Delhi Excise Rules, 2010.”

Last year, the Delhi Government adopted the Excise Policy 2021-22, as well as the terms and circumstances for the award of several kinds of licences. On November 17, 2021, the policy went into force. According to the Excise Department’s tender document for issuing 849 retail liquor licences, licensees are permitted to provide a rebate/discount/concession on the maximum retail price of liquor set by the Excise Commissioner. According to the ruling, under clause 15.2 of the tender document, the Department of Excise may, in its sole discretion, but without any obligation to do so, update, revise, or supplement the information in the tender document issued last year.

Ambrosia Awards 2021 is like a booster shot to the alcobev industry

The Ambrosia Awards 2021, held on December 17 at Hotel Andaz, New Delhi, was an extraordinary event, held during extraordinary times. The alcobev industry was starved of any networking event for nearly two years with the pandemic in full play. The Ambrosia Awards night came as refreshing breather to an industry which needed all the booster shots it could get. The Ambrosia Awards and the day-long Indspirit 2021 conference provided that perfect platform for the sector to not only network, but also to strategise going forward.

It was a packed awards night. There was one common refrain among the award winners as they were delighted to win as it endorsed and encouraged their efforts in keeping the focus of the industry going through resilience, strategising differently, innovation and above all the ‘never say die’ spirit.

That spirit was summed by the Ambrosia Business Leader of the Year 2021, Mr. Abhishek Khaitan, the Managing Director of Radico Khaitan Limited. While thanking Ambrosia for honouring him with the award, he thanked his team for growing the company. “With the team of ours we have been able to create over 15 premium brands in the country including a single malt whisky which is retailing at `1 lakh per bottle. This is a proud moment not only for me, but the entire team at Radico.”

Team spirit echoes at Awards Night

This ‘team spirit’ sentiment echoed through the huge gathering which had descended upon the venue to cheer the alcobev sector. Each of the awardees had a story to tell, even if it was just a ‘thank you’. It was not easy for the esteemed panel of judges who had to sift through so many deserving players. The panel of judges included: Mr. Bernard Schaefer, whisky expert and consultant; Mr. Ajoy Shaw, wine maker and consultant; Mr. Binod K. Maitin, independent consultant; Mr. Graeme Bowie, Scotch whisky expert; and Ms. Sheetal Kadam, wine promoter and consultant; and the judges for the packaging segment were Dr. Santosh Kshirsagar, Dean of J.J. School of Arts; Mr. Pranav Bhide, Sr. Creative Director, Leo Burnett; Mr. Shekar Ambedkar, Head of International Packaging Centre; and Prof. K. Munshi, former Head of Design Department, IIT.

Alcobev industry stands solidly behind the community

It hasn’t been easy for SAP Media Worldwide and its leader, Mr. Trilok Desai, to ensure the success of this event after a couple of postponements which the industry well understood. The Awards Night began with 30 seconds silence in memory of those from the industry who had lost their lives to Covid-19. In his address at the Awards Night, Mr. Trilok Desai talked about how the alcobev industry – be it Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory, Radico Khaitan, Jagatjit and several others – stood solidly behind to help the alcobev community overcome the Covid-19 crisis in whatever way possible. “Now, the worst period in the history of the alcobev industry is over. And we pray that Omicron does not turn out to be that dangerous.”

Mr. Desai was optimistic. There is a positive outlook on all fronts for the alcobev industry including the announcement of industry-friendly policies by the governments of Maharashtra and West Bengal. He singled out the efforts of the Delhi government which has revamped the excise policy and taken government out of the liquor business, a welcome move.

India, a global hub for alcoholic beverages

“India is fast becoming a global hub for alcoholic beverages as many of the world’s biggest brands continue to move to the nation in a bid to sell their products; compete with local distillers and producers. The reason is not far-fetched, India remains the world’s fastest growing major economy and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country will continue to lead in economic growth at 8.5% in 2022 following an impressive growth of 9.5% in 2021.

All these have been possible with the Indian economy growing at a decent rate of 8.5% with the third largest PPP- purchasing power parity- and over millions of young consumers who have high purchasing power. India’s ever increasing number of high networth individuals (HNIs) is also contributing to the growth of high-end whiskies; scotches and single malts, besides wine. The society is lot more liberal now and has started accepting social drinking culture for the past few years.”

Centre, State now more amenable to industry needs

Mr. Desai mentioned how the alcobev industry has been contributing to almost all the State exchequers and how a few states have had to reverse prohibition within months of enforcing it, given the challenges of the huge revenue losses. The alcobev sector also creates millions of jobs directly and indirectly and contributes in no small measure to the growth of the industry. “The Central and the State governments have started understanding these aspects and several states are responding positively in the interest of the alcobev industry, thanks to the continuous efforts of CIABC; ISWAI; AIBA and AIDA. Let’s give them a big round of applaud for their efforts.”

Changing dynamics

The Indian alcobev industry has become more innovative with more single malts rolling out of the stables, not only concentrating in the Indian market, but have performing well in exports. “More crafted spirits; flavoured spirits; increasing number of gins and several start-ups during the past two years have attracted investors and kept the industry buoyant.”

India’s increased requirement of ethanol blending in petrol of 20% by 2025 to control pollution and reduce the bill on import of oil has fuelled the investment in the sugar and distillery industry for the ethanol production. This will lead to increased employment in the sugar producing states like UP and Maharashtra.

Ambrosia Awards instituted 28 years ago

Talking about Ambrosia Awards per se, he recalled how they were instituted 28 years ago and how over the years it has earned recognition and credibility as it has maintained a strict criteria and parameters for their evaluation. We have been continuously investing in this property over the years.

“The evaluation process is very stringent and the international jury has expressed their satisfaction at the judging process as we maintain strict international standards. The jury is highly reputed and is recognised in their respective fields. They have also been surprised at the quality of products over the last five years. They feel that IMFL products quality is constantly improving and they offer the best value on an average price of 6/7 dollars a bottle.”

While thanking the staff for the success of the event, Mr. Desai mentioned how Ambrosia has come to be one of Asia’s highest circulated wine and spirits magazine and is in its 28th year of publication. It was the first English language magazine launched in Asia in the alcobev sector and we continue to maintain the leadership position. The publication is owned by SAP Media Worldwide Ltd which has several other titles like Asian Photography and International Aerospace, Show Dailies and so on besides many other verticals like conferences, awards etc. In certain segment of the industry like Aerospace & Defense we are the 4th highest circulated magazine in the world and we publish dailies under the title SHOW DAILIES in several countries like Japan; Korea; UK (Farnborough); France (Paris); UAE (Dubai); Singapore and so on during the year.

Over the years, Ambrosia has evolved and has even moved on to publishing the first Coffee Table Book and now the 3rd edition of the Coffee Table Book is under preparation with lot of additions and deletions looking at the continuous changes in the markets.

Mr. Bhavya Desai, Group Head and CEO, talked about how the Ambrosia Awards and Indspirit 2021 conference had been planned to not only stimulate one’s thinking but one’s senses. He mentioned that a record number of entries had come for this year’s awards, despite the many challenges that surfaced due to the pandemic.

Svami pays a tribute to the Legendary football player by collaborating with Amazon Original Series Maradona: Blessed Dream

Svami, a brand in the non-alcoholic beverage segment, has teamed recently with Amazon Prime Video’s most anticipated football series on the legendary player, Diego Maradona. Svami has launched a Limited-Edition bottle for 2 Cal Cola in honour of Maradona’s No. 10 jersey. The partnership also commemorates Maradona’s birth anniversary, as the series premiered on the same day. The series premiered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on October 29, 2021, across 240 countries and territories.

This collaboration between Svami and Amazon Prime Video is a one-of-a-kind partnership in which Svami’s varied selection of beverages and mixers, especially the new limited edition 2 Cal Cola, is the ideal choice of refreshment while watching the all-new exhilarating series at the edge of one’s seat. Through this collaboration, the brands aim to reach out to a larger football fanbase across the various metros of India. They have an exclusive retail tie up with Foodhall pan India and engagement on social media by involving the Maradona fan base has been on the cards. The brand will also run a digital ad to announce this partnership.

Aneesh Bhasin, Cofounder at Svami further added that, “Svami always has a different taste when it comes to collaborations. When we got to know that Maradona: Blessed dream was going to be launched on Amazon Prime Video, it was a no-brainer for us to onboard and thereby engage our football fan base via this collaboration. The launch of 2 Cal Cola Limited Edition, is our way of paying a tribute and celebrating the No 10 associated with this legend.”

Svami is spearheading the category of mixers and non-alcoholic drinks for adults. Svami’s comprehensive portfolio of drinks ranges from products like tonics to non-alcoholic rum and cola, giving people choices for great tasting drinks on all occasions. In a short period, Svami has become the default choice for bars and restaurants and retails in 40+ cities in India, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Maradona: Blessed Dream follows the controversial life of legendary footballer Diego Armando Maradona. A boy from Argentina with a dream of greatness, made his mark in the international football league, earning himself a well-deserved place in history. Living a life strewn with drugs, sex and public scrutiny, he played by his own rules regardless of the consequence.

Bombay Sapphire launches bar quality ready-to-drink Gin & Tonic

Bombay Sapphire recently announced the launch of Bombay Sapphire & Tonic Ready-to-Drink (RTD), enabling its consumers to now enjoy the world’s number one premium gin as a bar-quality Gin & Tonic serve, no matter where they are. The much-anticipated offering combines the brand’s heralded, vapour-infused London Dry Gin with the perfect balance of tonic water, for a superior taste experience.

Bombay Sapphire has been disrupting the category ever since its iconic blue bottle landed on shelves within a sea of green glass. Now, consumers can prepare themselves for a drink that stays true to the brand’s long-standing commitment to only the finest ingredients with a bar-quality taste.

Bombay Sapphire & Tonic is best enjoyed cold, straight from the fridge and poured over ice with a refreshing squeeze of lime. Whatever the occasion, whether it’s al-fresco events, to intimate gatherings at home, or being on the move, the pre-mix is meticulously crafted to showcase the signature juniper and citrus notes of Bombay Sapphire gin. Aside from its versatility and convenience factor, Bombay Sapphire & TONIC ensures it does not compromise on quality and taste. The perfectly balanced gin’s amalgamation with tonic offers a premium quality cocktail to-go with no artificial flavours or colours added to the final product. The ready-to-drink cocktail cans are sure to become a widely demanded product that is ideal for outdoor gatherings, festivals, beach days, and more.

Adtnu Tiwari, Senior Brand Manager, Premium White Spirits, Bacardi India Private Ltd., expresses his views on the launch, “Bombay Sapphire is known for stirring creativity in various capacities and disrupting the market with its innovative vision. Besides versatility and convenience, one of the key focuses while launching the Bombay Sapphire RTD was to emphasise and ensure that the quality of the drink remained intact. While the product enables its consumers the ease of portability and storing the drink, what sets it apart is its taste that’s at par with that of a premium bar cocktail. Bombay Sapphire’s RTD is going to fit all occasions, anytime and anywhere; it is going to grow into becoming the next most demanded product under the RTD category.”

The sleek, matte finish packaging has been carefully designed to preserve the standard of the serve, both on-shelf and once purchased. The material helps protect the liquid from sunlight keeping the G&T fresher and colder for longer. Available individually or in a pack of four, the can is 100% recyclable. Bombay Sapphire & Tonic will soon be on the shelves of all top retailers for gin fans to pick up.

Uttar Pradesh increases license fee, sets excise revenue target at Rs. 40,000 for 2022-23

Uttar Pradesh became the first state to announce its excise policy for the year 2022-23, setting an excise revenue target of Rs. 40,000 crore, up from Rs. 34,500 crore in the previous year. To achieve the target, one of the routes the UP government has taken is to increase the license fee across all categories. The increase ranges from 20% to a whopping 172%, depending upon the nature of license.

Revenue Target

The UP government collects 20% of its annual revenue from excise, however in the last two years, due to Covid, there has been a dip in the collection of excise from the set targets. In 2020 -21 targetted revenue was `37,500 crore which was reduced to Rs. 34,500 crore in the current financial year (21 -22) against which by this year end the expected revenue collection is Rs. 36,000 crore. Considering the positive trends and situation becoming normal the UP government has fixed an optimistic revenue of Rs. 40,000 crore. This is 16% more than the revenue target of 2021-22. The breakup of revenue planned for 22-23 is shown below :

Avenues for Revenue

Licence Fee

To achieve Rs. 40,000 crore, it has increased the licence fee and security amount across all categories of licences. Some of these licences are shown below:

Besides the above mentioned increase, the processing fee for these licences has been increased to `1.0 lac as against Rs. 55,000 for each application.

Brand & Label Registration Fee

Label registration is very tedious work which the entire beverages alcohol industry has to indulge in every year by compromising manufacturing and supplies till new labels are registered. Manufacturers spend a good amount of productivity of its people besides paying the stipulated fee. The industry feels it is difficult to understand the reason for this increase every year. Under the new excise policy, this fee has been increased from 33% to 90%.

Excise Duty

There is a very nominal increase in the Pratifal fee of IMFL. This increase will be between 0.75% – 1.50% maximum per case of 9 litre depending upon the Liquor category (Economy, Medium, Regular, Premium etc.). Similarly for beer the Pratifal fee has been increased by Rs. 1 per litre. At least this is a relief to the industry which has a direct impact on fixation on MRP.

Country Liquor – The Milking Cow

Due to high sales, massive production stakes with minimal import allowed from outside state, country liquor (CL) has always been top priority for various state excise departments. CL’s contribution in overall excise revenue ranges between 45% – 50% every year and therefore a lot of effort is made to safeguard this major chunk of revenue. The UP excise has therefore initiated following steps to ensure its revenue of Rs. 19,140 cr. for the fiscal 2022 -23;

  • Reducing MRP by Rs. 5 per unit of 200 ML
  • Removal of Covid cess
    a) Not increasing the excise duty
  • Removing 42.8% v/v MASALA CL . Now there will be only two types of MASALA CL i.e. 36% & 25% v/v
  • However 42.8% v/v UPML shall continue to sell at reduced MRP

It is very interesting to note that the same UP Govt and state excise department which had become very strict on changing the packaging norms of country liquor last year has changed its decision in just a couple of months . After two subsequent hooch tragedies in western UP in early 2021, the alternatives of the CL in PET bottle were being discussed at high levels of government and in the months of July – August 21 pressure was mounted on the industry to source aseptic brick carton filling machines aka Tetra Pack machine since this kind of packing is considered as 100% tamper proof. In fact few circulars were issued to industry to start supplying at least 20% of CL in Tetra Pack immediately. There was much hue & cry in UP’s distillery sector because there is hardly any manufacturer of this type of filling machine in India and import of this machine can take minimum 90 – 120 days’ time. In the new excise policy this condition has been replaced from Tetra pack to glass bottle packing having a shrink wrap on the cap. This will certainly give a boost to Firozabad (UP) glass industry which has been requesting the government to provide a platform for its revival.

Wine: Still a Mirage

The total excise revenue generated through wine sales in 20 -21 was only Rs. 9.68 crore out of total revenue generated of approx. Rs. 30,000 crore. Wine’s revenue contribution increased to Rs. 29.54 crore in 2021-22 of Rs. 34,500 crore. The growth in wine sales in UP has phenomenally increased by 200% in just one year which clearly shows the scope and opportunities for wines. The increase of revenue is directly proportional to consumption.

At the moment there is not a single winery in UP and to boost the wine industry the government is continuing with its endeavour as provided in its last years excise policy by :

  • Exempting wines produced in UP from all types of excise duty & levy for a period of another four years
  • Allowing vintner to sell wine in a store inside the winery by paying a small annual fee of `50,000 for a year
  • Allowing wine taverns inside the winery.
  • A licence fee of Rs. 57,500 for establishing a winery in UP

The new excise policy also indicates towards a separate new wine policy being prepared. It is suggested that the UP government establish a wine promotion board on the lines of the Karnataka Wine Board which is headed by a knowledgeable and senior IAS officer and other administrative officers who closely work with wine industry to find our more and more avenues for increasing wine production and consumption. Associations and federations like the Indian Wine Academy should also come forward to tap this potential.

Ease of Doing Business

We can see some steps the U.P. government is taking for ease of doing business in the excise policy. Some of these initiatives are:

  • Annual licence fee for home/personal possession of liquor licence has been reduced to Rs. 11,000 from Rs. 12,000 from last year and the refundable security amount has also been reduced to Rs. 25,000 from earlier Rs. 51,000.
  • Wine manufacturing and selling soaps as mentioned.
  • No increase in bar licence fee.
  • Microbrewery can sell/supply craft beer in 50 litre kegs.
  • Wholesale licence can store stocks w. e. f. 15th Feb.22 meant for next excise year.
  • Renewal of retail shops is permitted.
  • No increase in any licence fee and excise duty for defense forces establishments in UP.
  • Rs. 50,000 will be given as discount on the licence fee if bar & microbrewery both licences are applied simultaneously.
  • Track & Trace system to be extended to the retail sales.

Analysis By: Gopal Joshi

Strategist & Consultant

Beverages Alcohol Industry

linkedin.com/in/gopal-joshi-78a2a33