Mansion House, a flagship brand of Tilaknagar Industries launched its new DVC titled ‘A Warm Welcome’ with a digital campaign. The campaign aims to evoke emotions and foster a strong sense of shared humanity. In an interview with Ambrosia, Amit Dahanukar, Chairman and Managing Director, Tilaknagar Industries speaks about Mansion House’ phenomenal growth, consumer connect and their new campaign.
The idea behind the campaign was simple, to evoke emotions and spread the sense of human bonding. From the visuals of ‘atithi devo bhava’ that is critical to our culture like a friend walking through the gate to a warm hug, a brave woman army officer returns home in the North East to a joyous welcome, a stranded musician gets a lift by a couple, a fresher is made to feel at home in the office cafeteria. With every frame the campaign tries to paint a story of human bonding.
World’s fastest growing Brandy
The campaign ‘A Warm Welcome’ comes at a time when Mansion House brandy has become the world’s fastest growing brandy and the second-fastest-growing alcoholic beverage brand across categories globally in 2022. Mansion House Brandy achieved sales of 7.1 million cases in 2022 as against 4.5 million cases in 2021. It has a 12% market share in the brandy category and is ranked third, in the overall global rankings for the ‘Brandy and Cognac’ category, according to Drinks International.
Premiumisation and tapping newer markets
The flagship brand of Tilaknagar Industries, Mansion House, is already creating waves. And with the trend of premiumisation catching on, the company’s second premium brandy brand, Courrier Napoleon has had a robust 43% growth as per Drinks International’s The Millionaires’ Club 2023 report.
Mr. Amit Dahanukar, Chairman and Managing Director, Tilaknagar Industries said, “We have always been passionate about brandy as a product category. The remarkable performance of both our brandy offerings is a pointer to the immense potential the brandy segment holds in the region. Our brandy-first approach coupled with new product innovations has helped us jazz up the segment.”
Resonates with its target audience
Ahmad Rahimtoola, the Chief Marketing Officer of Tilaknagar Industries. adds that capturing this essence, this cultural richness, this warmth and this bonding is the new campaign by Mansion House Brandy. The campaign resonates well with customers who find Mansion House brandy more than just a product, becoming a symbol of fostering authentic relationships and memorable moments, in the very own words of
With such phenomenal growth and consumer connect, it was necessary for the brand to further connect with its expanding clientele base, hence the campaign, subtly aspirational, resonating well with the target audience of families and friends who value simple but genuine bonding.
Rahimtoola explains that the campaign is to redefine the brandy category’s communication landscape and establish a distinctive category code. “The rationale is to tap into consumers’ emotions and elevate Mansion House beyond being just a beverage to becoming an integral part of their cherished moments.”
Embraces inclusivity, compassion and heartfelt connections
Asked how the team came up with this campaign, Rahimtoola mentions that the “campaign’s central idea drew inspiration from the essence of Mansion House Brandy itself – the warmth and hospitality it embodies. We sought to create a narrative that mirrors the product’s attributes that exemplifies the genuine connections Mansion House.
StoryBoats the creative agency’s brilliance
Talking about how StoryBoats, its creative and brand partner, Rahimtoola says the ‘relationship has been nothing short of transformative. It transcends the typical client-agency dynamic, as we embarked on an extraordinary journey together. From the very outset, StoryBoats became an essential part of the process, infusing their creativity and passion into every step. This campaign’s brilliance is a testament to the profound relationship and mutual respect we share.
In the spirits business, we all are aware how it is rare to see a campaign for brandy as a category, but it requires a brand like Mansion House to set the spirits soaring. Rahimtoola substantiates “Producing this campaign for the brandy category was a rare opportunity to redefine communication norms within the segment. By emphasising the power of warm welcomes and inclusivity, the campaign sets a precedent for elevating the brandy experience beyond the physical product. We envision this campaign to contribute to the category’s growth by connecting with consumers at an emotional level and becoming a catalyst for brand preference and loyalty.”
The campaign addresses different age groups featuring a probable corporate female trainee; a 30ish musician who has hit the road; a female army officer who returns home, probably from a battle zone making the parents proud; an elderly gentleman showing compassion to a middle-aged person seemingly stressed out, consciously making an effort to dispel that brandy is a preserve of the elderly and that it is administered when someone catches a common cold. Brandy is for all occasions, more so celebratory.
The campaign has been unveiled across all its digital platforms. Strategically rolled out in key south India markets, the campaign utilises a multi-touch point digital strategy and a hyper local influencer amplification campaign to leave an impressionable mark.
In FY23, the company launched India’s first premium flavoured brandy – Mansion House Reserve French Style Brandy, the premium variant of Mansion House Brandy. These products have been well-received in the market and are being instrumental in imparting a new verve to the brandy space. Also, the company has forayed into newer markets, specially in the East and the Northeast, that offer a huge opportunity for category expansion.
Uttar Pradesh better known as the ‘Granary of the Nation’ is the largest sugarcane and wheat producer and the second largest rice producer in the country. In its bid to become one of the top states every which way, the Yogi Adityanath led BJP government has set itself a target of becoming a one trillion economy by 2027, for which it is laying out the red carpet for different industries, infrastructure project development, agri-produce and more. One of the verticals which is doing well is the alcohol production sector and here the Secretary General of the Uttar Pradesh Distillers Association, Rajneesh Agarwal talks about the efforts being made by the industry, the association and the state government in pushing the envelope further.
Tell us how Uttar Pradesh is a land of limitless opportunities?
Rajneesh Agarwal (Agarwal): Uttar Pradesh is indeed a land of limitless opportunities in the distillery/alcohol sector due to several reasons. Firstly, UP is the largest producer of sugarcane in India, which is a primary raw material for alcohol production, making the State an attractive destination for investment in the alcohol industry.
Secondly, the state has a diverse agricultural base that includes grains such as maize, wheat, and barley, which can be used as alternative raw materials for alcohol production and the government is encouraging the same, thus increasing the capacity of distilleries and reducing their reliance on traditional raw materials like sugarcane and molasses.
Thirdly, with a population of over 240 million people, UP has a large and growing consumer market for alcohol. Also with rising incomes and changing consumer preferences, the demand for premium quality alcohol and varieties of alcohol is increasing, supplemented with streamlined licencing process.
Finally, UP has a well-developed transportation network, with several major highways and railway lines passing through the state. This makes it easier for distilleries to transport their products to customers across the country and the world.
What has been a game-changer for the distillery sector in UP?
Agarwal: There are many factors – Expansion of Alcohol production; Ease of doing business; Robust government policies; and growing consumer base.
a. Expansion of alcohol production: In 2018, the UP government announced the new excise policy that allowed the production of ethanol from alternative feedstocks, such as maize, barley, and wheat. This decision supplemented with streamlining of licensing system and restoration of working hours from sunrise to sunset were all game-changers, opening up new opportunities for distilleries to diversify their raw material base and expand their production capacity.
In 2017-18 there were 60 distilleries in UP with total installed capacity of 161 Cr. litres of alcohol production, which in 2022-23 jumped to 85 distilleries with 346 Cr litres of alcohol production, a growth of 115% in a span of five years. While 20 grain distilleries have established in just last one year, 20 more distilleries are in the pipeline which will produce another 80 Cr. litres of alcohol.
The decision to allow the production of ethanol from alternative feedstocks was a significant shift from the state’s traditional focus on sugarcane and molasses as the primary raw materials for alcohol production. This has helped to reduce the reliance of distilleries on these traditional feedstocks and create new business opportunities for farmers and other stakeholders in the supply chain.
The policy has also helped to boost the state’s ethanol production capacity, which has significant implications for the biofuel sector. Ethanol produced from alternative feedstocks can be used as a fuel additive to reduce emissions in the transport sector, which is a key focus area for the Indian government’s energy policy.
b. Ease of doing business
The excise policies in recent years has a significant positive impact on the distillery sector in UP. It has made it easier for distilleries to obtain licenses and permits, reducing bureaucratic hurdles and increasing the ease of doing business in the state. The reduction in taxes on liquor has also made alcohol more affordable for consumers, leading to an increase in demand for alcohol in the state.
Additionally, the policy has encouraged investment in the alcohol industry in Uttar Pradesh, leading to the establishment of new distilleries and expansion of existing ones. This has helped to increase the capacity of the distillery sector in the state and generate employment opportunities for local residents.
c. Robust government policies
There have been robust and encouraging government policies from 2017 onwards. In potable liquor segment itself specific to Country Liquor (mammoth volumes with significant revenue to the state exchequer) the distillery sector volumes have grown 2.3x or at a compounded annual growth rate of 18%.
The total Excise Duty collection increased from ₹17000 Cr. in 2017-18 to ₹41000 Cr. in 2022-23. To sustain this industry growth, an investment of approx. ₹10,000 Cr. has been made by distilleries including an investment of around ₹3000 Cr. for setting up grain alcohol plants.
UP has been primarily producing over 200 Cr. litres of alcohol from molasses and there has been a paradigm shift of producing alcohol from grain too. Over 20 grain distilleries have been established in this short span which are producing around 62 Cr. litres of grain alcohol. Overall, as on date UP has over 85 molasses and grain distilleries producing nearly 350 Cr. liters of alcohol making a massive growth of 150% in less than two years.
UP has been a major contributor in the country’s ambitious ‘Ethanol Blending Programme’ having achieved highest blending of 11.89% with the national average of 11.56% as in March’23.
Tell us about the investments that are coming in this sector?
Agarwal: UP’s alcohol sector is all set to get a shot in the arm with investments worth ₹16,392 crores. According to the state’s excise department, ahead of the Global Investors summit, the department signed 17 MoUs for setting up industries based on distillery, brewing and alcohol products. Along with this, letters of intent have been given for investments worth ₹1400 crore. These include distilleries, breweries, microbrewery, yeast units, malt manufacturing units and caramel manufacturing units.
What efforts are being made to meet the demand for 20% EBP and potable alcohol industry?
Agarwal: To meet the target of 20% EBP by 2025 it is estimated that 1150 – 1200 crore litres of alcohol would be required for ethanol purposes. In present context of having achieved over 11.5% blending, the sugar / molasses capacities for alcohol production are nearing saturation. Moving forward, grain would be the primary source to meet the 20% EBP programme.
In UP over 20 grain distilleries have come up in a short span, with 13 more grain distilleries expected by 2024. Overall UP is expected to have over 20 new distilleries (Grain + Molasses) in the next one year.
However, the Ethanol producers within the State and pan India are presently facing operational challenges due to severe shortage and availability of broken rice and damaged food grains (DFG) at the prevailing prices of the government. Ethanol producers are jointly seeking an SOS upward price revision with the Central Government for both broken rice and DFG to put Ethanol producers back on momentum.
What kind of investments have been made to increase grain capacity for potable liquor in UP, a state which has seen industry volumes grow by 2.6 times and expected to double in the next five years?
Agarwal: To sustain this industry growth, an investment of approx. ₹10,000 Cr. has been made by distilleries including an investment of around ₹3000 Cr. in setting up grain alcohol plants in UP. With 13 more grain plants itself expected by 2024 will have an additional Investment of more than ₹1200 Cr.
The state government has approved establishment of distilleries based on molasses, grains, potatoes etc. Could you let us know if the UP distillers have taken that route?
Agarwal: Traditionally, many distilleries in Uttar Pradesh have been based on molasses, as the state is one of the largest producers of sugarcane in India. However, in recent years, there has been a growing trend towards using alternative raw materials such as grains, potatoes, and other vegetables, which can provide a more diverse and sustainable supply of raw materials for the industry. Some distilleries in UP have already taken this route and started using grains like maize, barley, and wheat to produce alcohol. For example, in 2019, a distillery in the state started using maize as a raw material for alcohol production. Similarly, there are distilleries in UP that are using potatoes to produce alcohol, taking advantage of the state’s large potato production. The government is launching numerous schemes and incentives to develop agro-processing industries in UP.
The UP government has allowed production of Absolute Alcohol of Pharma grade, could you give us an update on the same?
Agarwal: The production of pharma-grade absolute alcohol in UP is expected to substitute imports and reduce the country’s dependence on imported alcohol. The state government has allocated land to set up a pharma-grade alcohol plant and several companies have expressed interest in setting up such plants.
The UP government in April’22 has given permission to commence production of Absolute Alcohol of Pharma grade from Cane crushing season of 2022-23. This has paved way for self-reliance on Absolute Alcohol of Pharma grade which till now is dependent on imports from countries like USA, Australia, China etc. The State has envisioned production capacity of 25 lac litres from the total requirement of nearly 50 lac litres currently, saving revenue of around ₹10 cr. in import substitution.
What are the challenges for distillers in UP, regulatory or otherwise, and how can the government resolve it?
Agarwal: Today, UP is proud to hold its head high for turning the major challenges into opportunities. The rapid expansion and overall growth in past years is quite evident of this fact. However, the government continues to make radical reforms in the policies in ease of doing business, simplified regulatory environment, rationalising taxes & duties, expansion of infrastructure development with better road & rail connectivity etc. The ground water being the main source of irrigation, the State’s Environmental Board is taking various measures to avoid over exploitation of ground water.
Tell us about the role of UPDA in promoting the sector?
Agarwal: The UP Distillers Association (UPDA) is an apex body of distillery industry with nearly 90 distilleries. The Association is a 40-year-old body, actively rendering services as interface between its members and both State & Central Government authorities primarily through its advocacy role for policy makers and resolving issues of the industry.
To tap the limitless opportunities, UPDA is fast spreading its wings in international arena to explore and adopt best practices and technologies across the world. In recent years, under the close guidance of UPDA President – Mr. S.K. Shukla and Vice-President – Mr. Manish Agarwal, the association has ensured industry benefits.
The UPDA conducted its first International Summit in Aug’22 with six countries participating. The second UPDA International Summit will be held in July 2023, showcasing global innovation technologies with USA, Brazil, Israel and many more countries, besides home grown technologies.
This was followed by a visit to Brazil a delegation jointly organised by the All India Distillery Delegation and the UPDA, with the objective to explore synergy and business avenues of mutual interest between Indian and Brazilian distilleries and technology providers. Brazil has achieved 27% blending in 2G ethanol.
UPDA-AIDA are planning their next distillery delegation visit to USA under an exchange programme which will explore:
1) Corn supply chain model comparison between, India and Brazil & India and USA.
2) Corn cultivation and corn grains productivity enhancement in India, GM corn cultivation in India, testing of new corn cultivators from USA, and developing a holistic model for the corn growing farmers and industry.
3) Ethanol production technology transfer from corn grains and from corn biomass (cobs and leaves-corn stover).
4) DDGS (Dry Distillers Grains Soluble) valorization, Proteins recovery from DDGS and purification, Oils recovery from DDGS and its profiling, Develop of DDGS based holistic nutritive and palatable feed for cattle and poultry.
UPDA is in process of collaboration with ‘Invest India’ wherein UPDA will interface and support bringing investments & technologies, with initial focus in bio-fuels sector and grain based distilleries.
Will UP become the distilleries hub, if so, by when and what are you betting on? How many distilleries are there in UP and how many of them are your members?
Agarwal: Out of the around 520 distilleries in India, UP itself has nearly 90 distilleries with nearly 33 more distilleries coming up in 2024. These numbers show that UP is already a distinctive hub.
UP Distillers Association’s a prime focus all along has been on potable distilleries and now fast catching up with the industry at large on grain and ethanol producing distilleries. Presently, UPDA has 16 members on board which produce over 90% of the potable Country liquor requirement of the State. UPDA takes pride in having on-board Patron members such as Radico Khaitan Ltd., India Glycols Ltd., Wave Group, Sir Shadi Lal Industries and Superior Industries. Country Liquor sales of over 9 Crores cases per annum contributing significantly to the overall excise revenue of over ₹41k Crores with target of ₹45k Crores in 2023-24.
Abhinav Jindal, founder of Kimaya Himalayan Beverages, outlines the company’s growth trajectory
What is your impression of the response to craft beers?
The craft beer industry in India is still in its nascent stage, but it is exhibiting positive indicators of expansion. The global trend towards craft beer is starting to take hold in India, and this presents a significant opportunity for the industry. Unlike developed economies, where the craft beer movement has been established for over a decade, India is experiencing high double-digit growth in the craft beer category compared to a lower double-digit growth in the overall beer market. This indicates that the craft beer industry in India is experiencing a strong upward trend and is expected to continue this path in the future. The surge in the demand for craft beer offers possibilities to innovate and introduce new products in various categories, as well as to redefine existing categories in the competitive market space. This creates a lot of opportunities for innovation and differentiation within the industry, which will further drive growth and create more choices for consumers. Overall, the craft beer industry in India is poised for substantial expansion, and businesses that can tap into this trend and create exciting new products will be well-positioned to capitalise on this opportunity.
Do you feel consumers will go back to regular beer as compared to strong beer or is it only millennials?
The market trend indicates that consumers generally prefer stronger beer over milder ones, and this preference has been evident in the high growth rates of the premium, stronger beer category. With the availability of better-quality products in the stronger beer category, consumers are more likely to stick with their preference for stronger beer, and therefore, it is unlikely that there will be a significant shift in consumer preference towards milder beer.
What are your plans for the summer season – new launches, and promotions?
We have some exciting developments this season. Firstly, we have introduced a newer bottle packaging for BeeYoung Strong 650 ml bottle, which is a one-of-a-kind innovation that is unprecedented in this industry. It is highly likely that this packaging has not been seen before in the market. Moreover, our team is actively working towards launching BeeYoung in Himachal Pradesh to mark our market presence. To further enhance our product offerings, we plan on introducing new variants in premium segment with unique flavour notes to the Kimaya’s profile, likely to be launched in a couple of months. On the marketing front, we have launched an exciting summer campaign that will be visible both digitally and on the ground. This campaign is designed to be fun and engaging, and we are actively seeking out opportunities for collaborations and event sponsorships that align with the spirit of the summer campaign in the near future.
How would you describe Kimaya Himalayan Beverages’ remarkable journey from being the latest entrant in the market just before the pandemic to becoming a company worth over 100 crores in just one year of full operation?
The pandemic has caused significant disruption in the industry, particularly impacting small businesses and homegrown brands. Despite the uncertainties and obstacles caused by the pandemic, BeeYoung, which was launched in September 2019, has managed to stay resilient with a mindful approach and strategic resource allocation. Through proactive market analysis, the company has taken effective measures to reach its sales targets and develop a robust strategy for expansion into larger markets. As a result, BeeYoung achieved a remarkable milestone by dispatching 1,00,000 hectolitres of beer in its first year of full operation, experiencing an impressive growth rate of 129%. The brand has also successfully established itself in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Chandigarh and is now focussed on expanding into other states. To meet the increasing demand in its existing markets, Kimaya Himalayan Beverages is increasing its production capacity, reaffirming its commitment to meeting its customers’ needs.
How has the company ensured enhancing product availability in the existing market, diversifying the product range, and venturing into new regions across the nation.
To enhance product availability in the existing market, Kimaya Himalayan Beverages has established partnerships with distributors and retailers to ensure that its products are widely available. The brand has successfully established its presence in multiple regions of North India including Delhi, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. To diversify its product range, the team is working on introducing new variants with distinctive flavour notes to cater to the changing tastes of consumers. We are working on strengthening the foothold in North India by expanding into new regions and states, such as the upcoming launch in Himachal Pradesh. We have also invested in marketing campaigns to raise brand awareness and attract new customers. Overall, we have taken a proactive and strategic approach to enhancing product availability, diversifying its product range, and venturing into new regions across the nation. These efforts have helped us to grow.
What is the industry overview on alcobev category – the shifts and trends?
The alcohol beverage category has undergone significant shifts and trends in recent years. One of the most notable changes is the growing consumer interest in healthier and low-alcohol options. Consumers are more health-conscious and looking for beverages that align with their wellness goals. This has led to an increase in the demand for low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages, such as hard seltzers and non-alcoholic beers. Another trend in the alcohol beverage industry is the rise of craft and artisanal beverages. This has led to an increase in the number of craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries, as well as a growing interest in local and regional products. Finally, sustainability and environmental concerns have become increasingly important to consumers, and brands are responding by prioritising sustainability in their operations and products. This includes using eco-friendly packaging, reducing waste, and sourcing ingredients from sustainable sources.
Overall, the alcohol beverage industry is evolving rapidly, with a focus on health, quality, sustainability, and innovation. Brands that can adapt to these changing trends and meet the evolving needs of consumers are likely to succeed in this competitive market.
What steps are being taken to ensure Sustainability in the alcohol and beer industry: Innovative approaches towards environmental responsibility?
The alcohol and beer industry are taking various steps towards ensuring sustainability and environmental responsibility. These steps include implementing sustainable sourcing practices, using eco-friendly packaging, conserving water, reducing energy consumption, and minimising waste. Companies are exploring innovative approaches towards sustainability, such as using renewable energy sources, investing in water-saving technologies, and using waste-to-energy technologies. The industry is responding to the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible products and operations. By prioritising sustainability in their operations and products, companies are demonstrating their commitment to social responsibility and ensuring long-term success in the competitive market.
How would you describe the Science of Brewing: The chemistry behind a ‘Perfect Pint’?
Brewing is a complex process that blends the art and science of beer-making. It involves a variety of chemical reactions that transform simple ingredients such as water, malt, hops, and yeast into the diverse range of beers we enjoy today. The science of brewing entails understanding and manipulating these chemical reactions to create the desired flavour, aroma, and appearance of beer. However, creating the perfect pint requires not only scientific knowledge, but also artistic skill. Artistry in brewing involves being artisanal and selecting the right ingredients in the desired quantities. It also involves carefully combining the ingredients without adding concentrated hops, colour, or flavour. The art of brewing complements the science, which includes determining the appropriate temperature to boil, ferment, and so on. Understanding the chemistry behind brewing is essential for creating a satisfying and enjoyable drinking experience that caters to the diverse preferences of beer drinkers worldwide. In summary, brewing is a delicate balance of science and art that requires skill, expertise, and creativity to produce a perfect pint.
What can you do to make the industry more circular?
To make the beer industry more sustainable and reduce waste, adopting a circular approach is crucial. At Kimaya Himalayan Beverages, we have taken steps to minimise our environmental impact by recycling the used bottles. Additionally, breweries can use sustainable ingredients such as organic and locally sourced grains and hops, as well as switching to renewable energy sources like solar or wind power to reduce their carbon footprint. Breweries can also reduce packaging waste by using biodegradable materials. Furthermore, minimising packaging waste by using lightweight materials or reducing packaging size can be another effective approach. Lastly, partnering with local farmers to source ingredients can reduce transportation emissions and support the local economy. Adopting these circular approaches can significantly reduce waste, promote sustainability, and help create a more environmentally friendly product. As businesses, we have a responsibility to act towards becoming more sustainable for future generations.
How would stress the importance on the Art of Beer Labelling: Design Trends and marketing strategies?
In the beer industry, the art of beer labelling is a crucial element that plays a vital role in attracting and retaining customers. A well-designed beer label not only conveys essential information about the beer, such as its flavour and ingredients, but also serves as a marketing tool that sets the brand apart from its competitors. As design trends in beer labelling continually evolve, companies are embracing creative and eye-catching designs that appeal to a broad range of consumers.
With offering some of the best global spirits and portfolio on offer and an aim to establish itself as the home for premium spirits across categories and create human connections while focussing on sustainability, Beam Suntory has major plans for India. In an interview with Ambrosia, Neeraj Kumar, Managing Director, Beam Suntory India talks about the journey, their aim and the Indian consumer. Excerpts:
You have been associated with the company for over 15 years. How has the company grown in India over those years? From then to Now?
Beam Suntory is a proud custodian of world-renowned spirits whose legacies can be measured in centuries. We are a leading premium spirits company and the world’s third largest as well. Over the last few years, we have introduced some of the world’s most exclusive brands from our global portfolio to the Indian consumers, providing an opportunity to access some of the most sought-after spirit experiences in the world.
We have also made our successful debut into the Indian whisky space with Oaksmith Indian Whisky inspired by Japanese craftsmanship. Apart from this we have also launched more than 10 renowned Japanese brands from The House of Suntory – Yamazaki, Hibiki, Suntory whisky Toki and Roku Japanese Craft Gin. We have strengthened our Scotch brands portfolio with Bowmore, Laphroaig Select and Teacher’s Highland Cream Reserve and continue to embolden our Bourbon whiskey portfolio with Jim Beam and Jim Beam Black Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey.
Our aspiration of reaching $1 billion in sales by 2030 continues to drive our premiumisation journey in India. We strive to deliver a portfolio that combines the best of the East and West, with an unwavering emphasis on quality. We have invested in capacity and our people capabilities and proud to be certified as a Great Place to Work in India, three years in a row.
The Indian liquor market is expected to grow by 7% annually in the 2021-25 period, with whisky and spirits among favourites. What do you think are the key drivers in India?
The increasing demand for luxury spirits and premiumisation among Indian consumers signals a greater emphasis on quality. With rising disposable incomes, exposure to global culture and a desire for premium products, purchasing habits are evolving, making India an appealing market for global and Indian brands.
The channel landscape has also seen a dramatic shift in specialist store infrastructure. In addition, consumers now enjoy world class on-premise premium experiences and cocktail immersion, specially led by whiskeys and gins. The Indian consumer base is expected to grow and is witnessing a trend towards premiumisation. We expect a greater thrust on new innovations across whiskies, gins and vodkas, presenting an opportunity for cocktail craft as well as beverages for refreshment occasions. These trends will continue to drive growth at the top and premium end of the market.
What is Beam Suntory’s strategy to expand the India market?
For Beam Suntory, India is a strategic market with a long-term growth ambition. The company continues to deliver strongly along its ambitious goal of reaching $1 billion in revenue in India by 2030. Our ‘Yatte Minahare’ spirit inspires us to dream big and our commitment to the India ambition is consistent with our objective to develop our business scale sustainably in India and join our other large markets like the US and Japan.
Beam Suntory aims to establish itself as the home for premium spirits across categories and create inspiring human connections, while maintaining an integral focus on sustainability. The company continues to develop its presence here with robust investments on capability building, capacity expansion and inspiring top talent to join our global talent pool. With the early signs of success with Oaksmith whisky, we have a long-term commitment to build a business of scale whilst driving premiumisation.
You mentioned that by 2030 the company would touch $1billion in annual revenues in India, is that objective on course? Can you share the revenues from India as of 2022 across categories?
The Indian market is advancing towards quality over quantity and our goals for the Indian market are in line with the consumers’ needs catering to their discerning palates. With leading brands like Teacher’s, Jim Beam and Oaksmith and a range of luxury and premium products, we are confident in our ambitious goal for 2030. Over the past two years, we have accelerated our current portfolio, gaining value growth outperforming peers in the market. Our portfolio has been crafted carefully for Indian consumers and guided by our competitive advantage of ‘East Meets West’. These include principles of ‘Gemba’ (real consumer and customer insights from the points of consumption) and ‘Monozukuri’ (an unwavering commitment to quality from Seed to Sip). Our consumer-first mindset will continue to develop our portfolio to pioneer and leverage category, channel and consumer trends.
Since the launch of Oaksmith, it has become a very popular product. Can you share the market share, cases sold, etc. for the brand? Will the whisky be made available in the other markets as well?
After a successful launch in 2020 in Maharashtra and Telangana followed by expansion in over 20 markets, Oaksmith is at the helm of reinventing the Indian whisky segment. As a result of consumers tremendous response, Oaksmith has already sold 1 million cases since its launch, reinforcing Beam Suntory’s commitment to lead the growth and premiumisation of the Indian spirit’s market. With multiple international accolades behind its name, including the London Spirits Competition, we remain optimistic of this brand’s future in the market.
There is a major push towards sustainability in the industry. What are Beam’s plans towards the same?
Inspired by our Proof Positive commitments and Growing for Good vision, leaving a positive impact on the environment is central to Beam Suntory’s business and fundamental to its culture across every facet of the value chain. At the start of 2021, we made a global announcement to invest more than $1 billion to make positive impacts on the environment, consumers, and communities through our Proof Positive programme.
We have been making significant progress on this vision both globally and in India. Some of our local initiatives include
• Reduced dependency on single use packaging, starting with our range of Teacher’s and Oaksmith.
• Tree plantation project in Mumbai and Goa.
• Donation of USD 150,000 to NRAI to support workers in the F&B community during Covid-19.
• Donation of $600,000 to British Asian Trust, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), National Restaurant Association of India and Government-led relief efforts to mitigate the shortage of hospital equipment supporting Covid-19 relief during the second wave.
What is your understanding of ‘Growing for Good’, can you break it down for us?
Our vision of ‘Growing for Good’ guides us to demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and sustainability by promoting ethical and environmental-friendly working practices and behaviours. It applies both to the company and to everyone within the company and relays that the bigger we are, the greater our positive impact can be.
As a business that heavily relies on natural resources to make products that delight consumers around the world, we believe it is our responsibility to give back and leave the planet in a better way than we found it. To further define this vision, our long-term sustainability strategy – Proof Positive sets bold targets for us. Resting on pillars of nature, community and consumer, it guides us to make actional change within a defined timeline that protects the planet, offers education and expanded choices to consumers and gives back to our society.
The Ready-to-Drink brand sales has grown 16% driven by performance in Japan, Australia and the US, any plans for that category?
The emergence of the RTD (Ready to drink) market in India is growing at a fast pace and is bringing a distinct change in drinking behaviour. RTDs are popular since they come in various flavours and variants that are low in alcoholic strength and suitable for the refreshment and light experience. We are understanding the consumer needs and bringing forth products in response to their evolving preferences and will continue to monitor this space to guide our future business decisions.
As the industry moves towards sustainability, efforts are being made by global giants to get Carbon Neutral. While majority of this push is still focussed on packaging, SOURCE Global, a Bill Gates funded Public Benefit Corporation is harnessing the energy from the Sun and converting it into premium drinking water. SOURCE has already worked with Diageo on their product Godawan Whisky. In an interview with Ambrosia, Manu Karan, Sr. Vice President, Business Development, Middle East & South Asia, SOURCE Global, PBC speaks about the technology, the products in the industry and more. Excerpts:
What is the SOURCE Hydropanel technology and how does it work?
Access to safe, clean drinking water is a fundamental human right. That’s why SOURCE is on a mission to perfect drinking water for every person, every place, regardless of their location or socio-economic status.
Rather than extracting water from the earth’s water table, SOURCE Global’s technology – called the Hydropanel – uses the sun to draw pure, endlessly renewable water vapour from the air and transform it into premium drinking water. Solar photovoltaic-powered fans draw air into the Hydropanel, where a proprietary material absorbs pure H20 molecules and then releases them as water vapour. The off-the-grid technology creates optimal conditions inside the panel to condense water vapour into liquid, which is collected in an onboard reservoir, mineralised with calcium and magnesium, and delivered to homes, businesses, and bottling operations using flexible piping.
With this one technology, we are creating a renewable, sustainable source of drinking water – virtually anywhere in the world – for conscious consumers, communities that have no access to safe water, and companies looking for sustainable solutions. Here in India, SOURCE water will serve as an ingredient in Godawan, Diageo’s artisan whiskey. Godawan will be the world’s only whiskey made with water tapped from the sky and harvested using the sun, all in support of the Diageo’s commitment to sustainability and the Rajasthani ethos of “beauty in scarcity”.
Ground water and borewells globally are not in a good condition and India is not different. What sets SOURCE apart?
While climate change and contamination challenge the world’s freshwater resources, we’re tapping premium drinking water from an abundant and endlessly renewable resource. SOURCE starts pure, stays pure, and is balanced with the perfect blend of minerals for health and taste. We make drinking water locally, for the people and places that need it most, ending the need to treat water, package it in single-use plastic bottles, and transport it from far away. With Diageo we are stewarding industrial water to be used in the production of the artisanal whiskey, all while, alleviating stress on the local ground water and borewell sources.
What is the estimated installation site for the panels? For instance, for the 27,000 litres that you have put up for Diageo in India?
The SOURCE system is infinitely scalable, from single homes to entire businesses and communities, and we design water farms and arrays to meet unique customer needs. The water farm (similar to a solar farm) that supports Diageo’s artisanal whiskey production will be in Alwar, Rajasthan. Initially, the installation is expected to generate 9,000 litres of water within the first six months and will further scale up to produce around 27,000 litres of water per month after a year; in around 2000 sqm area.
How cost effective is this process? Also tell us the sustainable aspect of the Hydropanel?
SOURCE is revolutionising everything we know about drinking water. The system is powered by the sun and taps into a constantly replenished resource, making it an efficient, entirely renewable technology. There are no pumps, pipes, electrical lines, treatments plants or processes like desalination, which requires 10-13 kilowatt hours of energy for every 1,000 gallons of water produced, creating significant costs and carbon emissions. This is truly renewable drinking water infrastructure that replenishes, rather than depletes, our natural resources, which is aligned to Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress plan. The same infrastructure is used to offer a premium, great-tasting sustainable whisky.
Our internal studies from existing projects across the world have shown that a project of this size – 27,000 litres/month – would directly reduce over 19.4 million litres of water extraction over its lifetime, and indirectly displace the use of more than 4.8 million single-use plastic bottles over 15 years.
What happens when there are issues of sunlight?
The Hydropanel is based on solar technology, which means that it performs the best when the sun is shining, like in the sunny Alwar region – where Godawan whiskey is made. But the system is also designed to work across a wide variety of applications and climates, making it unlike any other drinking water technology.
What is the life of Hydropanels and what kind of maintenance do they require? Can the locals be trained in operating and maintaining?
We created our technology, and our business, to serve everyone who needs quality drinking water, whether they live in a water-stressed community or are looking for premium, renewable solutions. We offer a low-maintenance, long-lasting solution with a 15-year lifespan. Around the world, we hire and train local people to operate and maintain our water farms, creating not just a sustainable source of drinking water, but also local jobs.
In how many countries are you operational and are governments looking at this technology to address water needs in water-stressed geographies?
In 52 countries, we work with consumers, governments, national and international NGOs and businesses of all sizes.
SOURCE is incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation and in India, on example is our installation at the Zilla Parishad Primary School Kolpimpri. This project was born out of the Village Social Transformation Foundation’s work to bring access to clean, drought-resistant drinking water to school children, and is part of the local government’s initiative to align villages in Maharashtra with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The company also creates drinking water for businesses looking to reduce their water extraction, or that work in places where clean water is scarce, must be trucked in, or is available only in single-use plastic bottles.
Does the water tapped through this technology elevate the ‘whisky’ per se?
To support, Diageo’s commitment to sustainable, luxury products and experiences, we’ve provided technical expertise that complements Diageo’s artisanal brand and serves as a powerful representation of Diageo’s deep commitment to sustainability.
Why did you think of using SOURCE as against the soft water that is traditionally used for making whisky?
At Diageo, we have a responsibility to grow our business sustainably from grain to glass. Our partnership with SOURCE Global, PBC will help produce premium water which reflects the unique terroir of the region while saving groundwater which is aligned with the craft philosophy of born good, made good and serve good.
How is SOURCE supporting you on the sustainability mission? Are there plans to implement SOURCE water in other brands.
‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ is our 10-year ESG action plan to help create a more inclusive and sustainable world. We have set ambitious targets aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals including accelerating to a low-carbon world and preserving water.
Since SOURCE Hydropanels also operate off-grid and without electricity or traditional piped water infrastructure, it will help reduce the carbon emissions associated with treating and transporting potable water. In addition, it will help us take a step forward in our sustainability journey by saving groundwater and being a part of the solution in water-stressed geographies. Godawan will be the first beverage alcohol brand to use SOURCE water and we will explore brand synergies and consumer preferences.
With the industry and consumer moving towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable future, alcobev manufacturers have also initiated their move towards reducing their footprint. As one of the biggest stake holders in the industry, Pernod Ricard also recently announced its move towards the removal of mono cartons from its brands. But how does the company intend achieving this? Bhavya Desai spoke to Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India about it and more. Excerpts:
What are the current trends in the Indian Alcobev market?
The alcobev industry is dynamic in nature and new trends emerge every six months, but 2022 witnessed disruption and innovation in more ways than one.
While premiumisation has consistently been a key trend over the past few years, it will continue in the coming years, but not in isolation. Consumers are slowly moving towards eco-conscious choices and are seeking brands and products that bolster a sustainable impact on the environment and planet. This has nudged the industry at large to evaluate its impact on the environment and integrate sustainable practices into their businesses.
Low-calorie drinks and lower alcohol by volume (ABV) spirits are likely to see a surge in demand, as we see this trend currently growing. To cater to the growing demand for low alcohol drinks, especially for our health-conscious consumers, we recently introduced a non-alcoholic wine ‘Jacob’s Creek UNVINED’ in two variants to further build the category. There is a palpable consumer attraction across India for these categories and Tier 2 cities represent an additional robust source of growth.
Digital disruption backed by new-age technological innovation will continue to enable and enhance consumer engagement. On-ground consumer experiences today have become more immersive, which enable brands to curate personalised and customised opportunities for consumer engagement. In the years to come, the metaverse will also dominate as a key trend for consumer engagement.
What is Pernod’s outlook for India in 2023? Any plans to expand product offerings etc.?
India is a winning market for Pernod Ricard, globally. Innovation is at the core of Pernod Ricard – across all functions and initiatives and we will continue to invest in insight-led innovation to enhance consumer experiences.
As part of an industry wide initiative, Pernod has also announced its sustainable approach recently. However there haven’t been specifics on the details. Can you tell us more about this initiative?
At Pernod Ricard India, we continue to strive towards a circular future, with people, planet, and community at the core of our business. Resources are finite and over the years, we have taken so much from the planet. We feel now it’s time for us to give back to the environment.
Keeping this in mind, we are aiming to lead by example in the industry with #OneForOurPlanet, which is a significant step in achieving our commitment towards zero waste to landfill contribution for permanent mono cartons by 2030. With this, we commit to remove 100% permanent mono cartons from our packaging across our brand portfolio.
We strive to be sustainable and responsible at every step, from grain to glass and are responding with agility to global ecological challenges with this major environment-first initiative.
We have introduced innovative ways to offer convenience to consumers as well as build awareness through recycled and recyclable neck tags along with QR codes in several markets, that will redirect consumers to a micro-site solely created around #OneForOurPlanet. Using an integrated approach through new-age channels of communication, we aim to raise awareness around the positive impact of this initiative.
We believe in ‘responsible hosting’ which entails ‘responsible retailing’ and ‘responsible consumption’ practices. Our customers are receptive to change and are helping us amplify this further. Together we can make a significant difference and we trust that our partners and customers will help us pave the way for a better future!
Are there specific products/category that will be focussed on initially? Could you give us a phased timeline on the same?
Since 2020, we have been working on pilot projects to test consumer acceptance on the removal of permanent mono cartons. In May 2022, we finally decided to integrate this into our business in a phased manner, starting with IMFL brands. The key challenge now is how to address the assumptions that exist with respect to packaging in the alcobev industry. Consumers typically would associate mono cartons with luxury and premiumness, which becomes a critical factor when deciding what alcohol to buy.
#OneForOurPlanet was a bold move for us, especially with regard to taking that extra effort in changing consumers’ mindsets towards responsible consumption. And, with the way and the kind of agility we are moving ahead, we are confident to complete the removal of mono cartons by June 2023 or before.
What is the current market share for your Strategic Local Brands? Could you give the percentage of growth in 2022 for the Strategic Local Brands and forecast for 2023?
Royal Stag is Pernod Ricard India’s leading brand and the group’s largest by volume. It has the largest market share in the deluxe whisky category with volumes sales of 25 million cases in 2022. Imperial Blue, one of the world’s best-selling whiskies, is our leading brand in the value segment at 24 million cases sold during the period Jul’21-Jun’22 (Market share: 34%, YTD Jun’22).
Could you share details of import of your international brands into India?
We are globally strong and locally relevant. Our focus has been on developing world-class whiskies, gins, vodka, rum and engrossing wine culture in India, by successfully bringing global products to India and catering to the evolved preferences of the new-age Indian consumer. New innovations for us cater to the market in terms of products and experiences that tap into key category trends. Some of the recent premium innovations that we’ve launched in India include Havana Club 7, a super-premium rum and Jacob’s Creek UNVINED range which is non-alcoholic range introduced in two varietals – Riesling and Shiraz, with 50% less calories than regular wine of the same varietal. We also introduced super-premium Japanese and Italian gins – KiNoBi and Malfy respectively. Another recent addition was the launch of Ballentine’s 7YO Bourbon Barrel Finish Scotch whisky.
There seems to be an uptake in consumption of international brands in India, despite high import duties. Thoughts?
The uptake in the Indian economy combined with a strong propensity towards drinking less, but better brands leads to a belief that FY23 will also be another positive year for both our IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor/BII) and imported brands portfolio, which are well-positioned towards the premium end of their segments, in keeping with our long-standing focus on premiumisation. This trend has been further amplified by a few states adopting a progressive policy towards imported products leading to greater consumer affordability.
India is a ‘structured’ premiumisation story. The kind of and the quality of growth we are witnessing, is unlike anything we have seen before and it’s happening differently for different categories. We are focussing on deepening and enhancing consumer experience through our premium portfolio of products and initiatives.
What are the major challenges of operating in India, apart from taxation? What can the government do to ensure that ‘ease of business’ is a reality?
The alcobev industry is one of the biggest contributors to the government exchequer and requires policy and regulatory support to the same extent as other industries in the country. The industry operates under stringent regulations and arduous licensing process, which impacts the ease of doing business. Single-window clearance for all documents relating to alcobev production, updating IT infrastructure and streamlining various state-level bureaucratic processes are, therefore, the need of the hour. Furthermore, it would help if annual registration processes were further streamlined. For instance, if there are no changes in labels and pricing, they should be deemed approved after successful payment of fee. Further, a deeper and wider expansion of the retail universe to cater to emerging cities will lead to greater efficiencies and revenue growth for the state exchequer.
What products do you export out of India and to which countries? What is the growth like and the reasons for growth (besides Indian diaspora)? Also, could you let us know the markets that you are planning to enter?
Globally, our products are relished in over 50 countries with a volume of more than 2 million cases annually. We are looking to grow at a CAGR of 15% over the next three years. Strong growth is projected from Sub Saharan Africa and the South East Asia region. Our vision is to establish Pernod Ricard India’s Seagram’s portfolio as a world leader by creating the best brands and experiences for the middle-class and affluent consumers. The growth levers for our strategy are scaling up consumer base in existing markets, expanding portfolio via innovation, and targetting strategic whitespace expansion.
Our strong portfolio of Seagram’s brands includes Royal Stag, Blenders Pride and Imperial Blue.
There seems to be an emphasis on premiumisation, could you substantiate in the Indian context what that would mean?
The last few years have seen premiumisation as a dominant trend in the alcobev industry. Consumers today are seeking ‘value’ and ‘convenience’ more than ‘volume’ and this defines the shift in consumer behaviour as well as their enhanced expectation from brands. Besides this, the pandemic led to a rapid transformation in consumer behaviour by breaking down societal barriers and taboos. Today, consumers have gravitated towards self-indulgence leading to premiumisation and a boom for our higher end brands like Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute. In fact, with house parties becoming the norm and the cocktail culture further gaining popularity during at-home consumption, our premium offerings such as Absolut and our Gin portfolio led by Monkey 47 and Beefeater have truly become at-home bar staples.
Premiumisation will continue to be a key trend as consumer preferences evolve in line with growing disposable incomes of the millennials and as they adopt global trends.
Tell us about your sustainability journey in India? Specifically, the W.A.L initiative on how it has impacted lives and your company?
Sustainability isn’t new to Pernod Ricard’s operations in India. As a responsible corporate citizen present in India for over 25 years, sustainability is the key to Pernod Ricard India’s operations. The company continuously works towards an enriched value chain that is committed to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring that our business is aligned with the ‘World’s to-do list’ to help reach prosperity for the planet and its people.
The four pillars of our roadmap – Nurturing Terroir, Valuing People, Circular Making, and Responsible Hosting – address all aspects of our business from grain to glass. We are consistently working towards water stewardship to save, store and replenish water, especially in our plant locations, with a stakeholder inclusive approach. We are water positive in our operations with replenishment strategies at extremely high-water risk sites.
With our CSR Programmes on W.A.L (Water, Agriculture, Livelihoods) vertical, communities in water-stressed areas have adopted a circular approach and eventually have become more resilient in their approach to water use while increasing their disposable income.
The sweet mild flavour doesn’t easily give it away; a taste so distinct and broad at the same time. First time drinkers find it hard to describe, for its aroma is more “vinegarish” than alcoholic. But in places where this drink is more of a traditional staple, rice wine means more than just a drink. For perspective, South Asians love their rice wine. And if you’ve been around a lot, you’ve probably heard of Sake, the iconic Japanese brew with a global reputation. In many other countries like China, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, rice wine comes in different forms, recipes, and flavours.
India also has a rich history of rice wine. In Assam, the North-eastern part of the nation, there is a booming rice wine segment that is centuries old, with each tribe and ethnicity having its own unique taste. Communities such as Bodo and Ahom significantly use the glutinous rice, the Karbi, Mishing and Rabha tribes use non-glutinous rice. Although the differences seem to be minor, yet these subtle variations and adaptations do bring about significant differences in the quality and characteristics of the rice wine. Whether it’s Xaj Pani by the Ahom tribe, Apong in Mishing, Jou in Bodo, Karbi’s Hor, or Rabha’s Chako, one line that runs through is the fact that these rice wines are part of the social, economic, and traditional life of the people. With regional support now received and policy reforms in place, local producers are now taking advantage of the new policy environment to produce these heritage alcoholic beverages for all.
When the North-East Agro Products and Services (NEAPS) approached the Assam Agricultural University months ago to develop a rice brew technology for them, it was in line with the new mandate to grow the local industry. Today, the Jorhat-based company has launched its commercial brand, “XAJ”, its own version of Xaj Pani, the Ahom variant of rice wine. But for Akash Jyoti Gogoi, director of NEAPS, it was an ambition first nursed in 2014. “I had visited South Korea at the time and had a taste of Makgeolli, a popular rice wine in the country, and I realised that our own Xaj Pani tasted better.
“I then intentionally searched out other popular rice wines of South East Asian origin, such as the Sake of Japan and Lao Lao of Laos. I again felt that taste-wise, our Xaj Pani can be the winner. Moreover, Xaj Pani is 100% herbal in preparation. Thus, I decided to go commercial with Xaj,” says Gogoi.
Starting out in strange waters
Flanked by his wife, Mampi Gogoi and his cousin Uttam Chetia of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Gogoi set out to carve a niche for XAJ. A total of ₹3.5 crore formed the initial investment for the business, part of which was a ₹65 lac machinery loan from the government of India’s North East Centre for Technology Application & Reach (NECTAR) programme. Since inception, NEAPS has continued to work towards building capacity and growing its reach in the market. Thanks to the Heritage Liquor Bill of Assam, they’re able to sell XAJ in departmental stores, grocery stores, and restaurants across the state after procuring their Heritage Liquor Retailer License.
Although rice wine is a local craft in Assam, Gogoi needed to brush up on his skills. As he says, the process is both scientific and artistic. “The starter cake is made traditionally using local herbs with rich medicinal value. Then the sticky rice is cooked, before mixing it with the starter cake and kept for 24-36 hours. After that the rice is sifted to the fermenter tank and left for 14-16 days before the wine is extracted. Then the wine is filtered in a 3-tier filtration system, before it is filled in 750 ml bottles,” he reveals.
“XAJ has a shelf life of more than two years. The alcohol content is 12%-13% V/V, as per the government guidelines. We also intend to introduce the 375 ml bottle very soon,” he reveals.
Starting off production just two months ago, the company currently produces about 25% of its full capacity. What NEAPS has been able to do in the last few months is to take a complete rural product and transform it into a scientifically stable product. Now with a standard operating procedure (SOP), a process technology, and process machineries and equipment, Gogoi says upgrading its design is the next task for the brand. XAJ offers a unique smoky flavour, herbal value, and a sense of heritage which have been well received so far.
Educating us about the cultural background of this drink, Assam’s Tinsukia-based Sanjeev Konwar belonging to the Ahom community, says that the Ahoms possess an age-old tradition of offering Xaj Pani to their forefathers to please them and seek their blessings. “In special ceremonies held during childbirth, marriage, and even funeral, Xaj Pani is a primary element. Besides, Xaj is also prepared during Bihu and served as a welcome drink to guests. It is naturally loaded with a variety of probiotics and has great therapeutic values. There are even many folk songs centred around Xaj,” he explains.
A promising XAJ future
Indeed, rice alcoholic beverages present a lot of prospects for brands that invest in technology and innovation. For NEAPS, the plan is to go beyond Assam and move into the major cities of India. But beyond that, the goal for Gogoi is to export XAJ to other countries in South East Asia and Europe, so that they can have a feel of what real rice wine tastes like. And just like Judima (rice wine of Dimasa tribe), which has earned a Geographic Indication tag and put the global spotlight on Assam, the plan is to make XAJ an Assamese identity and tourist attraction.
The Art of Botanicals experience aims to open dialogue and provoke thought around finding creative and inspiring ways to move towards a more sustainable way of living. For this, they have collaborated with Herbivore Farms – an urban farm for flavourful, nutritious & pesticide-free produce. In their endeavour to #StirCreativity through sustainability, Bombay Sapphire Creative Lab presents “The Art of Botanicals” in association with Herbivore Farms. Zeenah Vilcassim, Marketing Director, Bacardi India, elaborates on her role in growing the Bacardi Indian Business and the focus on premium spirits.
What has been your experience after taking over in your new position?
I am an economist and data analyst by training. Immediately after my training, I moved into a management consultancy role at Ernst & Young in investment banking. Things kept getting interesting as I gained experience across different industries, moving to more creative spaces such as media, content, digital marketing, partnerships, and consumer insights – before becoming the Dewar’s Global Brand Director at Bacardi. This varied set of experiences coupled with my whisky knowledge – and we all know India is a whisky market – has really helped me navigate the complex environment that is India. Whilst it’s not without challenges, I believe India is one of the most exciting consumer markets in the world. Economic indicators are on the rise, and India is one of the fastest growing spirits markets with a diverse set of consumers that are becoming more and more educated about premium spirits. The next ten years of Bacardi and the whole industry will be hugely shaped and influenced by India and I’m thrilled to be a part of that journey.
Which of the brands in the Bacardi portfolio excite you and will these be the focus of your marketing initiatives?
We are firmly focussed on premium spirits, and you will know that both brown and white spirits play a big part on our Best 10 strategy – a strategy we put in place in 2018 for the growth of the Indian business 5x by 2030. We will drive our core brands like Bacardi, but will also continue to push the new premium aged range Bacardi Reserva. We will continue our market leadership with Grey Goose and launch new innovations for Bombay Sapphire. We will drive a strong whisky portfolio with our newly launched Premium Indian Whisky: Legacy, in addition to William Lawsons, Dewar’s Premium, and our beloved single Malts Aberfeldy and Royal Brackla. But we will also work towards being at the forefront of growing categories like premium tequila with Patron and new innovations coming into the market that are relevant to the Indian consumer. The future is looking very bright for all our brands, and we will always keep our consumer at the heart and innovate and grow based on their preferences and needs.
How well placed is Bombay Sapphire in the Global and Indian gin market?
Bombay Sapphire is no.1 in the premium and above gin category in India and globally, we are the market leaders in international spirits with Bombay Sapphire. In addition to our iconic blue bottle and our unique cold vapour infusion process, our mission is to be the world’s most sustainable gin. Now while it might seem like everyone is talking about sustainability at the moment, this is a mission we have been working on for over the last eight years. We launched our distillery in 2014 that runs on 100% renewable energy and has been awarded the carbon trust standard. All of our bottles are made from 100% recycled materials including the metal cap as well as the product labels which are made from paper approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council and we’ve worked on making every one of our botanicals 100% sustainably sourced throughout its supply chain. We are the only gin in the world that can claim that all its botanicals are 100% sustainably sourced. It’s our responsibility to take as much care about the farmers and their communities as we do about the botanicals they grow and harvest for Bombay Sapphire. Therefore, we have invested in sustainable farming practices across every single element of the supply chain for all our botanicals.
We will only work with suppliers who act responsibly and ensure a sustainable future for farmers, their communities, and the environment. Last year was when the last out of our 10 key botanicals was given the ‘For Life’ certification of sustainability. We have accomplished something in the space we only thought was a pipe dream 10 years ago.
We believe we are incredibly well placed to not just retain our market leadership position, but also to grow it further and India is a big part of that strategy. We know the craft gin revolution in India is well and truly here so in addition to our strong credible message around sustainability we will also continue to innovate with products that are relevant to the Indian consumer – the first of which is the Bombay Sapphire Sunset that we launched recently in Goa. Inspired by the warm glow of the setting sun in addition to our 10 key botanicals, Bombay Sunset consists of three new Botanicals – Indian White Cardamom, Indian Golden Turmeric, and Spanish Mandarin peel. It is a unique take on a premium gin and highly limited edition – once it’s done it’s done. But rest assure there will more innovations from Bombay Sapphire coming your way soon to the Indian market.
What was the Art of Botanicals event message for consumers besides being a fun event?
Bombay Sapphire’s brand positioning is all about fostering creative self-expression and this is critical to our core. We believe that we’re all actually born creative beings, but life beats it out of us and stop us from believing we are truly creative. As a brand Bombay Sapphire aims to inspire creativity in every aspect of life to every and any person around the world. This is emphasised and brought to life through our “Stir Creativity” platform, reminding the audience that creativity can be found anywhere and is an inherent part of every human being. This ties back into the versatility of Bombay Sapphire’s premium gin and how one can get creative with it anytime, anywhere.
The ‘Art of Botanicals’ experiential platform by Bombay Sapphire aims to showcase the many ways in which one can express themselves creatively while living consciously. Given Bombay Sapphire’s ten sustainably sourced botanicals, we simultaneously showcased this through innovative cocktails inspired by collaborators in the sustainability space across Mumbai and Bangalore. The “Art of Botanicals” platform is an immersive event that ties various experiences back into the key message of “creativity” and “sustainability” with collaborating brands such as Herbivore Farms (Mumbai) and Anand Malligavad (Bangalore).
What according to you is a sustainable marketing strategy?
Sustainability in business is the ability of an organisation to thrive over time in a way that protects and replenishes resources. We have always believed in communicating with our audience with empathy and listening closely to what our consumers have to say. Therefore, to be transparent with them across aspects such as the brand’s efforts towards sustainability, its ecosystem, and the way it functions, is imperative.
We have also committed to reviewing our global supply chain, with the aim of removing non-essential, non-recyclable single-use plastic and are currently reducing the use of PET bottles for select smaller SKU’s in India and moving to glass instead. As part of our overall efforts during F19, we also reduced our glass bottle weight and increased use of “Returnable Glass Bottles” which resulted in 1500 Metric tonnes of lesser Carbon emission and are working towards a plan to reduce it further by 20% resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions by 1800 Metric Tonnes.
What is the overall strategy for the promotion of your brands in the marketplace?
Our strategy has always been to invest in creating sustainable platforms and experiences across brands; creating greater impact and increased emphasis on cultural relevance year on year. Our brand campaigns have been at the forefront of popular culture, resonating with consumers across demographics. Being a brand that has been synonymous with identifying and popularising new cultural trends for over 157 years, we’ve been the first-movers in the creation of campaigns and experiences, inspired by alternative cultural trends, resulting in platforms like Bacardi NH7 Weekender, BREEZER Vivid Shuffle, Dewar’s You’ve Got Chef’d, and our latest Art of Botanicals platform.
Bacardi has generated immense love through platforms such as Bacardi NH7 Weekender, one of the most iconic, immersive music experiences that was one of the first platforms for alternative music and has seen over half a million consumers walk through the festival.
BREEZER Vivid Shuffle is India’s biggest Hip-Hop festival, which celebrates grassroots Indian hip-hop culture – built on Breezer’s commitment to champion and support youth sub-culture.
With a varied target group, each of our brands connect with consumers in their own unique way – Bacardi leverages its legacy in music, Bombay Sapphire speaks of a consumer’s creative expression, Breezer encourages the genre of hip-hop and dance subcultures, while Grey Goose elevates lifestyle.
We have worked with some of the most engaging and popular content creators and platforms to stay ahead of the curve. Overall, our innovative way of reaching out to audiences has resulted in content that has received over 100% increase in organic engagement as opposed to solely leveraging traditional models. All of this was followed by Bacardi India winning the award for the ‘Best Brand Extension Campaign of the Year’ at the Kalelido awards hosted by Brand Equity in March 2019 for the brand’s work on the ’Bacardi House Party Sessions’ campaign. Bacardi House Party Sessions had garnered an overall unique reach of 5M and drove 1.3M conversations on social media.
Are you looking at inorganic growth to become the market leader (Inorganic growth is through mergers and acquisitions/buying and selling companies)?
Because we also aim to keep our consumers at the heart by understanding their needs and preferences, we wouldn’t rule out any possibility. If the right opportunity presents itself, we will always look to deliver to our consumers, what makes sense to them and our firm commitment to being the number one premium spirits company.
Any new BII whisky launch in the pipeline?
With India being the largest whisky drinking nation that reflected an annual consumption reaching 220 million cases in 2019, the opportunity to expand in the Indian market has been tremendous. While we continue to premiumise our portfolio across categories like Dewar’s Premium and Double Double ranges as well as our single malts (Aberfeldy and Royal Brackla), we also recently announced our first-ever Premium India Whisky, Legacy.
India is one of the fastest growing markets for Bacardí globally, and the organisation is rapidly investing behind its strategic and ambitious vision for the market. The Indian whisky category is primed for the next stage of its evolution, and we saw this as the perfect opportunity to drive that shift forward. We have found our own way to take the category codes we know work and put a modern contemporary spin on them. Legacy Premium Indian whisky is proudly Indian and truly embodies the culture and passion of India. Legacy has now been introduced across shelves in Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh with plans to expand into further markets in the coming months and years.
Legacy has been crafted with a one-of-a-kind blend that combines Indian and Scottish malts with Indian grains. A rich blend layered with subtle peaty notes, fruity notes, and undertones of toasted oaks with a whiff of spice and a delicate vanillic smoky finish, Bacardí has created an impeccably smooth yet perfectly balanced whisky for the Indian consumer.
This momentous launch in our companies’ history also demonstrates the true commitment Bacardi Global has been putting in, especially for India.
For a numero uno beer brand to become a whisky brand is step in the right direction especially if the country is India which is a whisky drinking country.
The world over, whiskey has been seeing a renaissance. Bourbons, Scotch, craft distillations are all riding a wave of popularity among millennials. There has never been a better time to be a whiskey lover. The brown liquor is now more popular, more diverse and, most importantly, more delicious than ever.
The Indian alcohol market has been dominated by darker liquids, with 72% of total spirits’ consumption in the country being whiskey. According to the research report – ‘India Whisky Market Outlook, 2027-28’ – India consumed 237.22 million cases of whiskey in 2021 and the consumption is to reach 289.49 million cases by 2027-28, which would generate revenue of over ₹287000 crores.
In a first, brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev or AB InBev, which has a diverse portfolio of global beer brands, including Budweiser, Corona, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, among others, entered the spirits market in India with the launch of blended American whiskey under its brand Magnum Double Barrel in select markets. The move is part of the company’s Beyond Beer portfolio. It also is in line with its strategy to tap the trend towards premiumisation in the alcoholic beverages market in the country, while keeping consumer centricity at the core.
Artfully curated for the Indian palate but distinctively global in manufacturing craftsmanship, Magnum Double Barrel whiskey is a combination of American corn whiskey aged in white oak barrels in Kentucky and the finest of Indian single malts aged in ex-Bourbon casks, in Goa. The company is sourcing and blending Magnum Double Barrel whiskey in partnership with Sazerac and their Indian subsidiary JDPL; which has resulted in a blend of signature flavours that are silky soft with a malty and complex, creamy finish.
Commenting on the Beyond Beer portfolio and product launch, Vineet Sharma, Vice President Marketing – South Asia, AB InBev said, “Beyond being the 2nd largest spirits’ market in the world (10% of global spirits consumption) and the biggest whiskey market by volume / consumption — India also enjoys the benefits of favourable demographics, trends complimentary to premiumisation, a positive outlook on ease of doing business (EODB), and policy. We see a huge opportunity for premium offerings across the beverage category, in line with our overall premiumisation strategy. For Indian consumers, the attitude towards premiumisation is category agnostic making the country a lucrative ground for innovations across price points and categories. As a consumer-first organisation, we are actively listening to our patrons and tracking trends, behaviours and the launch of American blended whiskey — Magnum Double Barrel — is an effort to energise, reinvigorate the category, adding much-needed newness, fereshness to it. It is a true homage to the collaboration and exchange between continents, countries and cultures. The unique concoction of American corn whiskey with the finest Indian single malt is a first for the Indian audience.”
For most Indian drinkers, whiskey is an aspirational drink and the elemental choice. Widespread up-trading was evident pre-pandemic; 2021 has seen the trend accelerate significantly. As the second-largest importer of Scotch after France, India has the necessary expertise and skill to distil superior quality, globally admired, critically acclaimed liquids and ready audience in the country’s LDA (legal drinking age) + millennial consumers with disposable income that allows them to experiment. Thus, it’s a lucrative market to tap.
Taking us through their distribution strategy, Sharma said, “India is now amongst the top five markets for Budweiser globally and holds steadfast in its position as the country’s fastest growing premium brand. Over the last few years, we have gone from strength-to-strength and have an established distribution network across the nation. At present, Magnum Double Barrel will be available at select alcohol retail outlets, premium pubs, bars and leading restaurants. The plan is to listen, learn and expand.”
The company has already introduced the product in leading alcohol retail outlets in Maharashtra at ₹2,800, Goa at ₹1,800 for a 750ml bottle, and soon will be available in Karnataka, Haryana, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
Further revealing the plans to promote the brand, Sharma informed that Magnum Double Barrel’s launch campaign — Make New Happen — delivers on the spirit of innovation and originality. “The objective of the campaign is to liberate whiskey by creatively tapping the cultural nerve of consumers who are rewriting the rules of its consumption and breaking perceptions around it. The communication caters to the ever-evolving, diverse tastes and preferences of consumers above legal drinking age who emphasise savouring their drinks by experimenting with flavours and discovering premium alternatives to classic blends. We also have long-standing relationships with music festivals, events, and allied partners, and we will be sampling across to get feedback from consumers. We really want the unique blend to take center stage and let the product speak for itself. We will continue to spotlight people, places, and passions by expertly crafting experiences for contemporary India,” he added.
What is the current portfolio of brands that the company is marketing in India?
In India, the company is involved in the import, sales, and marketing of Moët Hennessy’s luxury portfolio of wines and spirits, besides operating the Chandon winery in Nashik. Apart from Chandon, the current portfolio in India also includes brands like Moët & Chandon, Dom Perignon, Glenmorangie, Hennessy, and Belvedere that have helped in driving revenue for the country’s overall sales. There is also a larger portfolio of wines, champagnes, and still wines that we sell in India. Moët Hennessy as an organisation is also introducing experiences among all our brands. Based on our understanding of the consumer mindset of trends that are happening, and also the quality of experiences that the consumers are looking for, but also elevate it to something that they may not have seen.
Are all marketing initiatives directed to the Indian market or also to the export market?
Moët Hennessy India is focussed on building desirability for consumers residing in India whether they purchase Chandon during their international or domestic travels, while our core goal is still building brand love for consumers in India.
What new brands do you plan to add to your portfolio?
Moët Hennessy has deep innovations in the pipeline. In the last year, we have introduced three to four new brands in the wine space and continue to build our portfolio of imported wines. There are also some spirits tested internationally that we plan to introduce in the Indian market by introducing it via the airport channel and continue to build that space for Moët Hennessy India in the years to come.
What has been the cornerstone of your pricing strategy for the Indian market?
Moët Hennessy uses retail selling price which is established for the consumer in the positioning of the product as well as our comparative strategy. We plan to use the retail selling price as the key driver in how we price our products in various markets. Having said that, India has multiple layers in pricing due to state policies and excises, and the strategy of pricing varies from state to state.
How are your different brands faring in the Indian market?
In the Indian market, we are market leaders for Cognac and Champagnes. When it comes to the other brands we have an aggressive strategy to continue to build on our single malts and vodka portfolio in the market and there is a large portfolio of wines that we are aiming to build and are loved by consumers and introduce them in tier 1 & 2 cities as well.
Which are your marquee brands and how do you plan to boost their growth?
Each of the brands under the Moët Hennessy India portfolio has a unique strategy set in place owing to various factors like the consumer target group, market availability, growing trends, etc. We aim at building awareness and top-of-mind recall for our brands through creative campaigns and the right partnerships, as we did with Chandon for the Rosé O Clock and Own The Sunset campaigns. The Rosé O Clock campaign solely focussed on celebrating moments with friends and family while featuring the Rosé variant which is growing the fastest among wines, which has resulted in an increase in sales in the Rosé variant within the portfolio mix. Own The Sunset campaign positions Chandon Brut and Chandon Rosé as the perfect drink to celebrate with your close circle while enjoying picturesque sunset moments.
What new sparkling wine moments do you plan to create to increase sales of your brands?
Sparkling wine, as a category has really grown over the last year, because of the occasionality of that product, or that category has really gotten expanded. We’ve seen during the pandemic, people occasionally picking up a glass of wine during the day, we’re seeing people celebrating small occasions at home and small celebrations, milestones if you might. So with that, we feel like the occasionality of sparkling wine is becoming more diverse. And, you know, our campaigns, especially on Rose o’clock, which we spoke about, allowed us to sort of capture those consumer occasions and build brand law in those locations. Leaders from various fields of life while showcasing their unique sunset moments distinct to their own personalities.
Do you plan to take the cocktail route more aggressively?
The emergence of the Indian bartenders in the global cocktailing scene is representative of consumers becoming more open-minded and experimental with their drinks. In our survey, nine out of 10 Indian drinkers said that they’re willing to try more categories. With that context, earlier this year, we hosted Hanky Panky from Mexico, the 8th best bar in World’s Best Bars in a 2 city bar takeover tour. Moet Hennessy will continue to build unique experiences for Indian consumers focussed on global trends.
Any new marketing tools you plan to introduce in your marketing process to grow your brands?
We use consumer insights and focus group discussions quite actively, alongside various digital tracking mechanisms to check the effectiveness of campaigns, and share of voice in a digital space.
What kind of brand growth are you looking at?
The consumer is drinking better and the premiumisation trend is here to stay. With that, Moët Hennessy’s has a large portfolio of luxury wines and spirits which allows us to build a unique relationship with consumers.