Category Archives: profiles

Chandon India says cheers to celebrations and experiences

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.  

Ankur Jain’s unique strategies and products are changing the beer narrative in India

The Indian beer market was valued at approximately 371 billion in 2020, with projections estimated at around 662 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 9.2% from 2022 to 2027. This impressive growth rate is a factor of changing consumption trends and the evolving tastes of India’s growing urban population. To keep up, manufacturers of brands must continue to evolve and push the boundaries in their efforts to deliver beer products that are acceptable and enduring.

At the heart of the beer revolution in India is Bira 91’s Ankur Jain. When he decided to establish a unique, local Indian brewery in 2015, it wasn’t necessarily to rival the more established brands like Kingfisher, or the more global varieties like Heineken and Carlsberg, but to simply create a space where beer is worth drinking and one that represents the vibrancy, strength, and spirit of the Indian people and heritage.

“I sold my healthcare start-up in 2007 and decided to move back to India. It dawned on me at the time that there was simply no beer worth drinking. We lacked frothy and heavy beers and I only wanted to solve the problem. We began by importing craft beers from Brooklyn and sold them in India. These were Brooklyn-brewed brands like Duvel, Chimay, and so on,” he says. The reception was good, but Jain knew there was so much more to be done if the desire was to bring quality brews to India.

Himself a late beer bloomer, Jain was more of a malt and wine guy in the early years of adult life. After he moved to Brooklyn to set up his health start-up and occupied an office next to an iconic brewery, the beer fever caught up with him. Today, he’s become a beer fanatic after many years of sampling new brands and flavours. He believes everyone just needs that first taste of awesomeness to fall in love, and that’s what Bira 91 set out to do.

Jain’s dive into the world of beers wasn’t without some hiccups and opposition, even among members of his family. His father, a respected retired architect who was in the Central Public Works Department for 35 years, wasn’t exactly excited about his son’s new found love. But that, perhaps, was the kind of drive Jain needed to succeed. He says not speaking properly to his father for almost five years gave him room and the freedom to properly explore his imagination and craft.

In its first year of operation, Bira was brewed in Belgium’s Flander’s region before production was moved to India for its #MadeInIndia journey. A couple of seed funding and angel investments later – from entities like Sequoia Capital, Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal, and Deepinder Goyal of Zomato – and Bira 91 was on its way to transform the Indian beer ecosystem with an “Imagined in India” craft beer.

Growth and trajectory

Bira 91 has been in business for almost seven years and has, within the period, grown exponentially with unique tastes and offerings. The brand has created a niche for itself and scaled up its market share and revenues beyond expectation. “Blonde and White were our first two variants. In 2017, we did a lot of research and created two additional variants, Strong and Lite. We’ve consistently recorded 150% CAGR annually from 2016 to 2021, and tripled our market share between 2019 and 2021,” says Jain.

Under the “Imagined in India” portfolio, four new limited beers were recently released, namely Bollywood IPA, Kokum Sour, Brown Ale, and Mango Lassi. “The Bollywood IPA variant is a total blockbuster. It is loud, flavourful, and vibrant with a tropical twist, inspired by West Coast IPAs that were born in California. Then we have Kokum Sour which complements the Indian summer by combining the traditional ingredient from the Konkan Coast and the affinity of the Indian palette towards sour flavours and the best sour beers of the world.

“Next is Brown Ale, which is a blend of English Nut Brown Ale and the Antwerpian Amber with strong notes of coconut and vanilla, and finally Mango Lassi, an experimental summer essential that merges Bira 91’s flagship Wheat Ale and a milkshake beer into one flavourful bomb,” he explains. Creating new flavours for the Bira 91 family is a function of consumer feedback, and the taproom in Bengaluru has been a haven of experiments and innovation towards achieving the right mixes for beer lovers. This is why Bira 91 Limited Release Taproom has been awarded the People’s Choice Award for the Best Microbrewery/Taproom of 30 Best Bars in India Awards.

With consumer preferences changing, Bira 91 has access to an ever-expanding market in India where people can now sit over a couple of beers at a bar or crack a bottle open at home. But beyond India, the brand has been able to find some penetration in 18 countries around the world, including the US, UK, Bahrain, Dubai (UAE), Oman, Germany, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia, Maldives, Japan, and Sweden. This also means ramping up production to five breweries in India and manufacturing capacity up to 2.4 million cases a month. This is a 6x increase in comparison to 2019. At present, they have five breweries that are operational in Maksi, Nagpur, Kovvur, Mysuru, and Gwalior.

Collaborations and merchandise

As a brand that seeks to constantly connect to consumers, Bira 91 has continued to engage in activities that accommodate members of the public as part of their journey. They have done this through producing exciting merchandise since 2016. The goal, according to Jain, is to create amazing experiences both at home, out of home for their numerous consumers. “It is about lifestyle and deepening the relationship between the brand and the customer. Our Merch store has played an important role in our growth story and enabled a strong connection with consumers.

“It’s almost like an e-commerce operation, replete with its own sourcing, customer service, and product development teams. We have a range of merchandise available including beer and glassware, service ware, as well as apparel and accessories such as wallets, tote bags, laptop sleeves, and so on,” adds Jain. By this move, there’s a deeper connection with members of the public and consumers can better interact with their favourite brand, especially in a country where alcohol advertising is prohibited. Such genius is what has helped Bira 91 to stand out since its establishment.

A number of collaborations have also been entered into with renowned brands in a bid to introduce carefully curated and memorable experiences for consumers. These include a collaboration with boAt, India’s largest consumer wearables’ brand for an exclusive limited-edition collection of three spunky audio devices that are high on functionality and aesthetics. Bira 91 also teamed up with Nicobar, a homegrown lifestyle brand, on a limited-edition capsule of clothing and accessories inspired by the Bira 91 Gold variant.

But that’s not all! Jain explains that these are just notable brands who share the same ideology and customer-centric approach to business. “It’s basically about the consumers. We understand that consumers like to be connected to their brands in more ways than mere transactions. This is how brand equity is built; this is how loyalty is formed – a bond of mutual respect and understanding – where both the brand and the consumer embark on an adventure together to explore different avenues and possibilities. That’s what we’ve achieved,” he says.

Challenges, projections, and future plans

The biggest challenge of the beer industry in India is restrictions on advertising, but innovative entrepreneurs like Jain believe even that is an opportunity. The increasing consciousness of consumers means they can now make intelligent choices, not based on cosmetic advertising like surrogacy, but on “narratives and conversations”. Bira 91 doesn’t engage in surrogate advertising because it considers itself a lifestyle brand, more concerned about engaging its consumers and creating an experience than trying to change their attitudes through media messages.

As Jain puts it, “the Merch shop we created in 2016 is an example of our approach. We have now run it for more than five years and it has become a significant portion of our revenue. I’m not talking about a small portion, but an integral part of our revenue and brand story. We have dedicated teams for purchasing, customer service, and other aspects of a typical e-commerce operation. These are the kinds of things that genuinely reflect the ethos and aspirations of our brand, and are the reason we’re now working towards building a restaurant to continue to create that rich experience for our consumers.”

Beyond collaboration with lifestyle brands in India on many ventures and products, Bira 91 is also looking to further expand into uncharted territories. But Jain understands that winning consumers’ hearts depends on having the perfect product and blends. “Owing to the pandemic, we did not launch many new products in 2020 and 2021. We are now all set to introduce more products than we did in the last five to six years combined. We progressively invested in our product innovation pipeline to get as many new flavours bottled/canned up for wider distribution, going beyond the limited-release beers that consumers can enjoy at our taprooms,” he adds.

Paul P John, inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame at the World Whisky Awards 2022

Paul P.John, an entrepreneur by choice, who ventured into the alcoholic beverages industry in 1992 and established John Distilleries in 1996, has not only steered the company to great heights, but also put on the world map India’s capabilities when it comes to producing some of the finest single malts.

Today John Distilleries has been declared the 4th largest liquor company in the country with production at over 8 locations across 7 states in India. The strong portfolio of brands in various liquor categories such as whiskies, brandy, and wines. His flagship brand, Original Choice is one of the top selling brands in India’s popular whisky segment and one of the top 10 selling whiskies in the world with sales exceeding 12 million cases a year.

His zeal to surpass the ordinary and his personal passion for single malts led him to create the Paul John Indian Single Malts.

Paul John Single Malts were launched in the UK in 2012 and they are currently available in over 43 countries. The brand’s several expressions have won over 280 renowned international awards.

And now for his stewardship, Paul P.John, Chairman of John Distilleries Pvt Ltd has been inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame at the World Whisky Awards 2022 held in London in March.

How does it feel to be inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame at the World Whisky Awards 2022?

It is a great honour to be recognised for the work that I have done, and especially for producing premium quality whiskies from India.

What are your future plans in the Scotch space?

We feel there’s a lot of potential be it in domestic or international markets specifically for single malts. Across the world, consumers are not fully aware of drinking or experiencing single malts properly, and as part of our efforts to build awareness of our brand we are helping consumers enjoy single malts better and we find more and more people turning towards such whiskies are their choice of drink.

Do you see a dramatic increase in Scotch sales in the near future?

(Allow us to point out that we don’t call ourselves Scotch, ours are single malts as we do not make our whiskies in Scotland)

And yes we do see a great potential in the sales of single malt whiskies across all markets.

What is the scope for Scotch brands bottled in India?

Both countries are working on bringing down the duties, if that happens there’s a lot of potential but until then there’ll be just a small growth.

How do you plan to increase the footprints of your premium single malt brands in India and abroad?

We’ve been on the job for the last ten years and we’ve had a steady increase in our footprint. We will continue to build brand awareness, venturing into new countries while continuing to build our presence in existing markets, today we are available across 40 countries in the world.

Which countries are you focussed on for your brands and why?

Mainly UK, USA, rest of Europe and Australia, and of course India.

What are your comments on the recent FTA with Australia?

We welcome more competition.

Which countries would you like to see India signing FTAs and why?

We are fine with working with whatever our government decides.

Are you looking at other segments like Tequila, Gin and Vodka?

Yes, we are planning to launch a premium gin shortly.

What is the next big award you hope to win?

Consumers, accepting the brand is the best award and recognition we can possibly get.

Radico Khaitan goes from Local to Global

It has been a long successful journey for Radico Khaitan which first produced supplied extra neutral alcohol ENA to production of their 15 brands, to creating five millionaire brands, operating 28 bottling units, going the premiumisation route, and creating world class brands in the luxury brands category. Dr. Lalit Khaitan looks back in retrospect at the journey and is confident that his son Abhishek Khaitan, who has worked alongside him will take the company to greater heights.

What effort does it take to make a company like Radico Khaitan? Can you share some insights into that?

Establishing a business from scratch requires perseverance and a clear vision. Nothing can be achieved within a few years. When my father, Mr GN Khaitan, bought the loss-making Rampur Distillery in 1972, we produced extra neutral alcohol (ENA) and supplied bulk alcohol for several liquor companies. We started production of our brands in 1999, and now have over 15 brands including five millionaire brands, and operate 28 bottling units across the country. The mantra for success is quite simple: understanding of market or segment, the audience’s taste, and taking decisions to narrow down market gaps.

What are the three key turning points that you attribute to the success of making Radico the biggest IMFL company today?

First turning point was when turned from a bottler to creating our own brands with – The launch and success of 8 PM whisky is the turning point as we started the branded IMFL business with it. We sold a record one million cases of 8 PM in the first year of its inception, a record that is yet to be broken by any other brand in India; in fact, it made it to the ‘Limca Book of Records 2001’ for the achievement. We utilised the best marketing brains and tools to popularise the product; even the commercials for the product won many accolades at that time.

Second was when we started premiumisation – with the launch of Magic Moments Vodka in 2006, followed by six versions under the brand Magic Moments Remix within two years of its release also helped us gain a strong footing in the industry. The brand established itself as the industry’s undisputed leader and category driver by capturing more than half of the category’s market share. Our decision to enter the vodka business paid off as Magic Moments rose to become the world’s seventh-largest vodka brand. I would also like to talk about the decision to go premium in 2009 with the launch of Morpheus XO Brandy as the game-changer for us and a successful PAN India brand.

Third was when we entered into Luxury segment -Then the launch of Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and Rampur Indian Single malt in 2018, not only mesmerised the Indian consumers, but brought a delightful experience to the connoisseurs’ world by endorsing Indian brands in the international markets. We have successfully built our brand equity in international markets and currently export products to over 85 countries.

Looking back do you feel that there are some things that you would’ve liked to do differently than today?

The way things have turned out for us, I would not change a single thing. The Branded story of Radico, which we started with in year 2006 is a perfect example of growth and scaling up.

A success of the company is directly attributed to its leaders. But how important is it to have the right team and processes in place to achieve that success?

If the team doesn’t resonate well with the vision and the mission set by the management, the whole idea of an efficient leader can fall apart. No success is assured without having employees who are focussed on accomplishing the unified business objective. In my view, anybody can copy machines, but it is manpower who makes all the difference in success and not so success.

What do you think Radico took such a long time to diversify into premium brands?

As I have always maintained, the decision to enhance the brand portfolio has to be taken after taking stock of the overall market dynamics. We entered the premium category in 2006 and that was the time when the liquor market was witnessing a shift from just social acceptance to the development of a society that enjoys drinks. The success of our premium brands attests to the right timing. Besides market leaders including Magic Moments Vodka with over 60% of the market share and Morpheus XO Brandy which has a market share of over 60% in the premium brandy segment- 1965 Rum has achieved a 10% market share in defence, Magic Moments Verve has achieved a 20% market share amongst all premium vodka brands and Rampur Indian Single Malt and Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin are a rage not only in India but world over. This testament is proof of our timings being right and the strategy being robust.

In the last two years, the company has been churning out some great products in the gin and whisky category like Jaisalmer and Rampur? Moving forward do we expect to see more products like those?

Product innovation is of the utmost importance for us. Our latest offerings including Royal Ranthambore Heritage Collection Whisky and Magic Moments Dazzle have been yielding encouraging responses. We are also working on scaling up the existing brands like Rampur Indian Single Malt, Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, 1965 Spirit Of Victory Rum, Morpheus Brandy, and 8 PM Premium Black Whisky. Going forward, you will see a host of products in the premium range from the House of Radico Khaitan.

With its premium products, Radico is focussing a lot on exports as well. But slowly these products are now available in India as well. What was the reason why this strategy was adopted? Was it to replicate the success that some of the other manufacturers have achieved using this route?

We had this strategy for two of our luxury products Rampur Indian Single Malt and Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and it worked wonders for us. Both the products are a rage world over. The primary reason was that the single malt and the craft gin categories were already established abroad. In India, these categories are now emerging. Hence, we launched the product first in the international market before bringing them to the domestic market.

What was your vision for the company a decade back and how has it changed considering where Radico is today?

My vision is to work constantly to improve quality standards and enhance customer satisfaction. And it has always been that. Be it last decade or two decades ago. I do not feel that we have to change it as it ultimately gets converted into revenue growth and increased market share. The Customer is the King for us.

The dynamics of the industry and also the way it operates is constantly changing. What are your thoughts on those? Is there anything that you would like to see differently about the industry or any suggestions you would like to make that can improve things?

Right from advertising to marketing, liquor industry operates in a very challenging business environment. For instance, alcohol companies are not allowed to advertise directly so we have to strategise differently to make our brands more visible, rope in more brand ambassadors, and create creative campaigns with infotainment. Since the market is also growing, we have to be on our toes to offer the best products to our consumers and devise marketing strategies that will ensure that our products reach them.

One of the major challenges that has emerged in the recent past is around our surrogate brands. According to the existing rules, companies need to have a separate revenue model for the surrogate brands with a certain amount of turnover and this creates an additional challenge for us.

However, we find solutions to all of these obstacles within the purview of law because we are a responsible company. We have a legacy to maintain. Non-compliance with state regulations is not an option for us. Since we have over 75 years of experience in liquor manufacturing and 25 years in the IMFL business, the company knows about the law across states and knows how to adhere to it.

In Abhishek, you have a son that has led from the front along with a great team. How does that make you feel as a father?

As I worked hard to help improvise and enhance my father’s vision, I am seeing the same zeal in him. He was instrumental in taking the call towards launching our own brands and premiumisation drive which turned the fortunes around for the company. He is a new-age leader who people look up to and that makes me an extremely proud father.

How difficult is it to compete against multinationals as an Indian brand? Your thoughts?

Once a company has a sound understanding of the market, and back that knowledge with its quality products then competition doesn’t pinch much – be it from domestic or multinational brands. Within two decades of launching our brands, we have expanded our reach to over 85 countries, which is an indication of the capability of Indian brands. I would like to give an example of our latest products Rampur Indian Single Malt and Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin here; when we took the product to the international market, people were surprised by the fine quality leading to immediate acceptance. The idea behind giving this example was that once you have quality products according to the tastes of the people, competition becomes secondary.

Australian wines focus on India paying rich dividends

Australia’s industry is different. It is much more mature, and our climate allows for a more diverse variety of wines to be produced. So it isn’t a “like for like” comparison. In fact, we see no real competition between the domestically produced and imported wines. Both are targetted to different parts of the society. Domestic wines are often perceived as “value for money”.

Imported wines often carry a perception of quality among Indian customers who are willing to pay a premium. According to some statistic, imported wines account for about 35% of the country’s total wine consumption in terms of value but only about 12% in terms of volume.

Australia is looking at the upper end of the spectrum in wines, we see an opportunity for Australian labels to offer an experience to consumers.

The diversity and quality we can offer, gives us the ability to provide consumers with something that few new world countries can.

What experiences of Asian markets would you like to bring to the marketplace?

The Indian wine market is in a nascent stage, especially for imported wine. We are delighted to see wine culture slowly evolving and consumer adoption growing.

As the industry continues to grow, we are hoping to see more advanced matching of wines and foods. Cobranding of wine experiences with other activities, like premium tourism. Curated experiences that take the consumer on a journey. Tasting rooms, which we see coming up in Maharashtra soon, are something we are working on.

Our main aim is to see wine transformed from consumption to experience in the mind of the consumers.

Exports of Australian wines in glass bottles have grown 2% in value and unpackaged wines by 13%, what are your comments? Do you see an opportunity for bulk wine exports to India?

There is an opportunity for bulk wine. But current duty structures don’t really make it viable. There is no significant cost saving to import bulk as custom duty remains same for bottled and bulk wine. It’s not something we are looking into right now.

We do see opportunities for private labels in India and have had success with Australian brands developing private labels for Indian organisations.

What kind of pricing strategy should Australian wines adopt as the global trends are for low-end wines and high-end wines?

Brands should consider a multi-pronged strategy. Offering an entry level wine to generate awareness of their label in the market. Support this with a more premium offering, that elevates the perception of quality.

What are your comments on the growth of wines in value (less than $2.50 per litre) by 8% and that of high-end wines ($50 and more) increase by 34% in value?

This is a very encouraging trend. It shows a maturing of consumers’ pallet and an appetite for a premium experience.

As has been the case all around the world, as the industry matures, consumers’ pallets become more sophisticated and the premium segment emerges. We also see this trend in the fact that importers are not only seeking entry level wines, but also mid and premium level wines

Australia has unique position in Indian market. Australia has significant market share not only in wines value less than $2.50 per litre, but also high-end wines, too.

Australian wines have an approximately 23% market share, and a little over US$ 6 million in value. What target would you like to set for yourself in terms of market share and value?

We are very proud of our position in the market. It’s something we want to hold on to and grow. We haven’t set targets in terms of overall dollar value. We want to focus on creating a brand for Australian wine, as we feel this will give the best outcome.

Importantly, younger generations, particularly the age group of 20-35 years, is the emerging consumer segment for wine. This is due primarily to an exposure to Western culture.

Austrade India have a significant presence on the ground. Austrade has offices in six Indian cities (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata & Hyderabad). We are working closely with Indian importers and providing personalised one-on-one service to understand importers’ requirements to expand their portfolios and connect with Australian wineries. Austrade is playing an important role to maintain and grow Australian market share in imported wines in India.

With a very low per capita consumption of wine (a tablespoon) and total consumption of 30 million litres how would you rate prospects of Australian wine in India?

With the market being in a developing state, there is huge potential for Australia.

Historically, India has been a market for spirits and beer and wine consumption has been limited by availability of domestic wine as well as the high cost of imported wines.

In a country with a billion-plus population, it is estimated that wine in India has penetrated only a small segment of the population so far, resulting in low capita consumption of wine. Wines are increasingly becoming popular among younger generations and are now being served at functions, events, Indian marriages, and gifting.

Australia’s proximity to India, in comparison to other wine producers, gives Australian exporters a slight advantage. Not only are freight cost moderately cheaper, but diplomatic relations are strong due to our shared democratic values and large Indian diaspora in Australia.

The position of Australian wine and its wineries is critical. We want consumers to think of Australia in terms of a premium brand for wine – A leader in the new world.

With India being such a young country (by demographics and at heart) we’ve taken a long-term vision for the market.

With India importing about 500,000 cases of wines per annum what is the scope for Australian wines in India?

With the market being in such a developmental state, there is huge potential for Australia. The amount of wine imported will grow over the coming years and if Australia can establish its brand in the market it will be a big part of that growth.

Many well-known Australian wines are not present in India – Jacob’s Creek, Hardy’s, Yellowtail are three accessible brands. For consumers looking to explore Aussie labels and varieties further there is Yalumba, Torbreck, Two Hands, Penfolds, Lindeman’s, Wolf Blass and Debortoli available across a range of state, just to name a few.

Imported rosé is witnessing increased interest due to its versatility and food pairing. Rosé is often discussed as an excellent wine to pair with vegetarian food. It suits the Indian palate as it is light and fresh like white wine, but with the body and fruitiness of a red wine. Blush-coloured medium sweet Moscato wines that are low in alcohol content are emerging as a trend amongst health-conscious consumers. This is something Australia can bring more of to the market.

“Wine-in-can” is a new segment that is targetted primarily at millennials for on-the-go consumption. We’ve already seen success for Australia in this area with Barokes.

All these trends support the notion that Australia will continue to be a leading choice for consumers in India.

With 19 million young people entering the drinking market each year and with young people a prime target audience for wines, how do you plan to address this target and the general wine drinking audience?

The perception of wine needs to be looked at. For a long time, wine has held a distinct position in the Indian consumers’ mind. It has been seen as a sophisticated and stylish drink as compared to other alcoholic beverages, like whiskey, scotch and rum that are considered men’s drink or gin, which might be considered a preference for females.

But the thing with wine is there are so many different varietals and tastes, that there is a type of wine for everyone.

If we can bring exciting options, like rosé or different sparkling varieties I think it can really excite new consumers and appeal to broader tastes.

Right now, wine consumption in India is largely limited to urban areas and metropolitans. Austrade advises its Aussie labels to focus not only on metros, but also to look at tier-2 and tourist locations.

Younger wine drinkers in India are an experimental group who are searching for new experiences; an appetite we hope to satisfy with Australian wine.

The Struggle with Counterfeiting in Spirits Industry: Coming out of Covid Crisis

Spokesperson: Mr. Ankit Gupta, Gov Body Member, ASPA (Authentication Solution Providers’ Association)

What has been the counterfeiting scenario in the spirits industry during the Covid crisis?

During the Covid crisis, alcohol in India has emerged as the sector with the largest number of counterfeiting incidents. This includes adulteration, trademark infringement, fake liquor, fraud, and other ways to copy products. According to ASPA counterfeit news repository study, alcohol continues to be in the top five sectors in 2018, 2019 and 2020 facing these risks. The same trend continued through 2021. Alone in Uttar Pradesh officials had seized approximately 12.57 lakh litre illicit liquor till November 2021 (Source: Aabkari Times, December 2021).

Despite being one of the most regulated sectors, in normal circumstances also alcohol industry is one of the biggest victims of counterfeiting and illicit trade. During the pandemic the industry was hit badly as sales through restaurants, hotels, etc. was adversely affected. Drinking at home became more acceptable and picked up but was still not enough to substitute the lost revenues. While the industry was struggling with low demand, criminals exploited the demand-supply gap to sell more quantities of counterfeit liquor, creating an even bigger threat to human well-being.

Why is the alcohol industry one of the top targets for counterfeiters and illicit trade?

Criminals are attracted to the alcohol industry because of various reasons e.g. high profitability, evasion of taxes, low consumer awareness, lack of universal pricing in India as well as high demand. In addition to this, the easy availability of raw material Methyl Alcohol, which is widely used for industrial purposes is another reason.

The margins for criminals are considerably huge and despite regulations, the task of counterfeiting and illicit trade is not being made challenging enough for them. During lockdowns, restricted access to and availability of good quality liquor gave a bigger push to the sale and purchase of counterfeit or illicit liquor. In some cases, it was observed that people saw the acquisition of liquor in difficult times at higher rates as social status or public image booster.

The danger has increased as criminals are using more reckless methods of producing and smuggling alcohol. For instance, many incidents of liquor being produced from sanitizers or ethyl alcohol or spirits from petrol and diesel mixed with colour being sold in copycat or discarded packaging surfaced across the country. These products are hazardous.

How can counterfeiting be controlled effectively post-pandemic?

Development of a solution always starts with recognising the problem and assessing its magnitude. Counterfeiting has been underestimated and this has prevented the development of a robust strategy and solution to curtail it. The fight against counterfeiting and illicit trade needs to be fought from three fronts – policy, brand, and consumer. A policy framework that guides support and nurtures an ecosystem which strong against counterfeiters. It should protect businesses and consumers against counterfeiting malice while enabling effective law enforcement and effective punishment to those who commit the crime.

Being an integral part of the system, brands should take solid steps to protect their products by building an adequate defence of anti-counterfeiting solutions and traceability infrastructure. For instance, multi-layered protection through packaging by implementing anti-counterfeiting solutions which make it almost impossible to copy – one-time break seals and sleeves. Supported by smart solutions such as tax stamps, digitally readable labels, QR Codes, etc. Made more effective by awareness which educates consumers about how they can safeguard themselves from counterfeit products.

Consumers can play an important role in the fight against fakes, they are their first line of defence. A little bit of carefulness and attentiveness on their part while buying liquor can save them from getting cheated.

Can the online sale of alcohol be a welcomed trend? Can it help in curbing the sale of counterfeit liquor in the country?

The pandemic crisis has encouraged discussions about the online sale of liquor in many states. According to a survey by YouGov National survey findings, almost 60% of consumers are eager to purchase alcohol online. Safety and convenience have been cited as key reasons to prefer the e-commerce channel to buy alcoholic beverages. While the online channel offers consumers more choice leading to innovation within the category and incremental revenue opportunities for state governments, we need comprehensive regulations and safeguards for selling liquor online and need to tread with a lot of caution. The process and compliance regulations for alcohol delivery will vary from the delivery of groceries or essentials. Moreover, the possibility of alcohol being seized during transit and the adulteration of alcohol by criminals cannot be ruled out either. The authentication industry can offer technology-enabled packaging and anti-counterfeiting solutions that can plug these risks and challenges. The digital footprint cn help in traceability and if done with proper provisions it can ease the process of identifying and catching frauds.

John Distilleries bullish despite hiccups

Covid has been challenging but John Distilleries is ready to bounce back thanks to the success of its Single Malt Brands. Being based in the South the company has also got its South strategy right. Paul John, Chairman and Managing Director, John Distilleries Pvt. Ltd., outlines the strategy to pave the way for the company’s bright future.

How has 2021 been for John Distilleries?

2021 was a challenging year, however we maintained resilience, built a growth in share points of our core brands in our stronger markets and expanded into new markets with our luxury portfolio.

What is the strategy for this year given Covid 3 and post Covid?

To stay positive and drive our internal strategy of prioritising channel mix and segment mix to deliver growth, this strategy has been working well for us over the past few years.

What has been the overall response to your premiumisation strategy?

The response has been very promising especially with our single malt portfolio garnering popularity across the country and the globe. In the domestic arena we’ve recently launched Roulette Premium Whisky – a peated whisky that stands apart from other whiskies in its segment/category, and expanded Fireball Cinnamon Flavoured Whisky into new markets, along with our BIO portfolio – Sazerac Rye and Buffalo Trace.

Are you looking at moving to the brandy segment given that the South is a strong market?

With Paul John XO we’ve already established a presence in the luxury brandy segment in the South as well, along with Roulette brandy which is popular across South markets.

What has been the impact of Covid on the company’s fortunes?

The impact has been tough as with most companies, and these past couple of years have been transformative in several ways for every industry with demands to adapt and evolve, but it has not deterred our zeal to deliver high quality products and maintain an innovativeness with consumer interest as priority.

Do you see a strong comeback for the company post Covid?

We believe in constantly and consistently delivering premium quality products for our consumers, and our efforts over the years have been recognised and appreciated. We will continue to dedicate our efforts to deliver the best and this gives us the impetus to keep moving forward.

How is the IMFL Division faring?

IMFL is a competitive segment, our core brands in this segment in the South are doing significantly well. We are now slowly expanding to newer markets with new brands and the initial feedback is very encouraging!

Has the success of the premium brands had an effect on the growth of regular brands?

Definitely. The success and popularity of our premium brands has had a positive rub-off on our new brands with the halo effect encouraging consumers to try our new offerings in the market.

What are your plans for sourcing raw materials for your single malts?

We’ve been producing single malt for the past 12 years, the major ingredient in the production of single malt is malted barley. We have annual contracts with different suppliers across India and we shall continue to source our raw material from these suppliers in future as well.

What are your expansion plans for 2022?

Our focus will be to build the footprint of our existing and recently launched brands especially our luxury portfolio, across markets.

Parksons Packaging Ltd. acquires Manohar Packaging, new entity to have presence across India

Manohar Packaging, a leading player in the alcobev industry with a pan India presence has now been sold to Parksons. This gives Parksons a major presence in the alcobev industry. Aditya Patwardhan, Board Member, unveils details of the new entity and the way forward.

What is the nature of the sale of Manohar Packaging to Parksons? Can you share some details?

As widely published in leading newspapers and media, Manohar Packaging (“MPPL”) has been acquired in entirely, by Parksons Packaging Ltd., a Warburg Pincus owned company, and the industry leader in paper based packaging. Post the deal, the Board of Directors of MPPL has been reconstituted strengthening the company’s management team.

The newly constituted board includes Rameshji, Siddharth, and Chaitanya Kejriwal, from Parksons, and Hemant Mundra, from Warburg Pincus. I continue as a board member. All of us will work as a professional management team and continue to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset.

Till the time the integration is complete, MPPL will continue as a subsidiary, however all back end operations, reporting and data management will be merged and streamlined with immediate effect, to offer our clients a seamless experience with a newer and larger network of plants, with clubbed and standardised materials management. We hope to broadly convert around 300,000 tons of sustainable and renewable paperboard in the near future in toto.

What are the strategic benefits to both companies arising out of the transactions?

What this effectively means is, that our clients now have a network of eight mega plants spanning the length and breadth of India, with state-of-the-art technology, standardised inputs, systems, quality parameters, and methods of operations.

The care and detail with which we have been working with our partners and clients – be it in terms of packaging design, development, validation, to market supplies, will only improve. The combined strengths of Parksons scale, and MPPL’s domain expertise in alcobev, will be evident in the work we do going forward.

Our Design Park is unparalleled, and equipped with the best software and digital technology. The combined team of creative pre-press, technical packaging developers, coupled with production experience, will soon be deployed on new projects and will bear testimony to this.

MPPL’s plants located in Goa (West) and Punjab (North), will be part of the total network including Pantnagar (North – 2 units), Sri City (South), Daman & Chakan (West).

What I am most excited about is our increased ground presence with a state-of-the-art plant in Guwahati (North East), with which we can serve our clients in the east of India with speed and efficiency.

Will there be any changes to the way Manohar Packaging continues to work?

As in the case of most mergers & acquisitions, the aim is to grow the new entity and improve our overall ability to serve our clients. Given we’re a ‘B2B’ industry, it is extremely important to ensure we are moving in the same direction and journey as our valued partners.

The Kejriwal family and us share a common vision, the same mind set, goals, and growth plans. There was a meeting of minds, which ticked off all the boxes. The industry and our clients will be the biggest beneficiary of this deal.

Delineation and segregation between shareholding and professional management is important and we all are in it to grow as India’s most preferred supply partner for paper based packaging. Both our companies are held by Warburg Pincus and we’re glad to have them as we will continue to think like entrepreneurs, work in a professional environment, and deploy our knowledge and strength to drive more power to the company.

What is the status of the liquor packaging industry?

Currently, like the liquor industry, the supporting packaging industry is equally fragmented. There are a great number of players in the game, and we are happy to co-exist.

Clients decide whom they wish to partner with, and they have several criteria to choose from in terms of a holistic approach to supply chain, or purely price based on any given month.

We, at Parksons, run highly regulated and governed companies, with sustainability, social compliance, ESG taking high priority in the way we operate and run our facilities.

Hence we’re more focussed on long term client partners who value the need for transparency, professionalism, fair governance, and sustainable practices. We are extremely fortunate and honoured to partner with them, and I’m sure more beverage companies will value this long term approach eventually.

Alcobev is an exciting place to be, and is the gold standard for premium packaging. So likewise, most players in this field, need to be on top of their game with technology upgradation, technical knowledge, and downstream supply chain security given that commodity markets are in their most turbulent phase at the moment. This is where the long term approach wins for most.

How has the pandemic affected the company?

Here again, the fact that our organisations are well managed and governed helped a lot. Both MPPL and Parksons’ plants were up and running shortly into lockdown 1, with the highest safety protocols and were operating when our clients needed us most.

In unprecedented times, I am proud that the human ‘can do’ spirit and agility took precedence and we managed the show when many could not. I earnestly would like to thank our clients and mill partners for supporting us, so we in turn could deliver whatever was needed out of us in short notice with great agility and flexibility.

I would say, looking back, it has been the toughest learning curve for all of us, and we have come out of it stronger. I say this with certainty and hope, that the worst is truly behind us.

How can the premiumisation trend boost the industry?

Premium products are seeing higher salience and acceptance, maybe owing to increase in home consumption due to lockdowns, modernisation of retail outlets (Delhi), and clearing of red tape for home delivery / app enabled ordering of brands as an added convenience to the consumer.

The dark market woes of the alcohol industry still remain, and hence the pack is the first impression that the consumer takes home with them. Most marketeers understand this very well, and we’re beginning to see less ‘me-toos’ and more bespoke work in the recent few quarters.

With premiumisation and better margins, alcobev companies are able to experiment with new innovations, and can justify higher packaging budgets. This brings in a lot of excitement to the consumer as well as the retail shelves, leading to growth and diversification in the industry.

Improvements in the overall consumption experience that the leading premium brands offer, viz.; design cues, primary & secondary packaging upgrades, closure, to pour and palate should lead to better and wider social acceptance of responsible and repeat consumption in the near future. Premium outlets will need premium looking brands, and going by the Delhi market example, there should be tremendous headroom for growth here.

Cheers to that!

Oaksmith Whisky – A blend of Scotch Malts, Bourbon and Japanese craftsmanship

The global premium spirits company Beam Suntory has combined its knowledge and expertise of premium spirits from across the globe to bring to India, a truly International blended whisky, ‘Oaksmith Gold’. It is a first of its kind spirit with the best of Scotland and The United States of America by blending premium aged Scotch Malts, aged Kentucky straight Bourbon – some from distilleries over 200 years old – with world class Japanese craftsmanship. Oaksmith Gold and its blend are a celebration of craftsmanship and global collaboration, combining the best of East and West in a beautifully crafted 6-edged bottle. A celebratory ode to the impeccable Japanese craftsmanship, Oaksmith Gold is an iconic global brand starting off from India, bringing in an unmatched international experience with every sip.

What makes it truly gold?

The ingredients do the magic. From Grain to Bottle, Oaksmith Gold is a spirit with a smooth taste. It delicately blends high quality aged Scotch Whisky Malts from the lush highlands of Scotland with aged Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky from The United States of America using impeccable craftsmanship of Japan. As a result of this world class unique blend created by one of the most celebrated master blenders globally – Shinji Fukuyo, the man with over 30 years of experience creating the most famous award-winning Japanese whiskies in the world such as Yamazaki and Hibiki – the taste of Oaksmith Gold is rich, smooth and refined. On the palate, the flavour profile is mild but full body with woodiness from the oaks casks, on the nose, it is rich fruity and has a sweet top note followed by a hint of smoke (peat), on the finish, it is clean and smooth making it very delightful. This makes it perfectly suited to tickle the taste buds of connoisseurs and beginners alike.

Aged Bourbon Whiskies from the Americas

Elegant. Smooth. Refined. That is what four years of aging in newly charred American white oak barrels does to the bourbon, which goes into the delicate Oaksmith Gold blend. A method tested over more than 200 years of time – a method as old as the distillery that produces it.

Aged Scotch Malt Whiskies from Scotland

Oaksmith contains carefully selected Premium and Aged Scotch Malt Whiskies that speak of the pride and confidence of some of the most charming distilleries in Scotland. Crafted as nature intended, these precisely selected whiskies are known for wholesome maltiness, honeyed sweetness, a delicious creamy texture, and as much character as the Highlands of Scotland!

The Impeccable Craftsmanship of Japan

Japanese dedication to quality and craftsmanship is world renowned. Oaksmith Gold is a perfect representation of Takumi which in Japanese means ‘artisan’ or ‘skillful’ as it is an ode to Japanese craftsmanship. The rare blend has a fine balance of smokiness, sweetness and smoothness that was crafted by world renowned Shinji Fukuyo – Chief Blender at Suntory, the founding house of Japanese Whisky – after spending hours meticulously selecting aged spirits in oak barrels. The name – Oaksmith is a tribute to this craftsmanship, and the fine oak casks that Beam Suntory’s whiskies are aged in. From seed to sip, Oaksmith Gold is gentle on the nose and strikes a balance between the oak’s woodiness with notes of rich fruity sweetness giving it a clean and smooth finish. Further, to truly match it to the local palate, he travelled across the length and breadth of India to understand the nuances of Indian food and flavours and what could match perfectly with them.

What constitutes The Perfect Serve?

This beautifully crafted whisky blends well into any cocktail and pairs well with almost all flavour profiles of food. However, the perfect serve of Oaksmith Gold, is a celebration of purity, authenticity and high quality that comes alive recommended as 45 ml poured in a pre-chilled, wide mouthed whisky rock glass. Add signature Oaksmith Gold spherical ice for this Takumi ritual, if not, four big ice cubes or six small, and finally add water to taste, but no more than the pour size (45ml in this case).

Pricing and Availability

Oaksmith Gold brings Japanese mastery – otherwise a super-premium and luxurious phenomenon – to Indian whisky price points to elevate the product experience many notches above the standard segment offering. Oaksmith Gold is currently available in the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Goa, Assam, UP and ranges from Rs. 630 to Rs. 2,000 for a 750 ml bottle.

Greater Than Gin, yes, what can be?

In the last couple of years, there has been a count of nearly 15 new gins entering the market, reviving the gin spirit, so to say. Of that 11 are from Goa. “It started off as a fluke as we decided that Goa had the best bottling partners for us. Since then, it seems quite a few others have taken that to be the precedent set and got to work,” that is Anand Virmani, the founder of Nao Spirits, manufacturers of Greater Than and Hapusa – premium crafted gins that are making waves in the markets available.

Virmani has his own take on how the crafted gin segment is evolving. He believes that Goa is not any more liberal than many other states in the country when it comes to excise policies. He dismisses it as a factor for launching Greater Than in Goa. Similarly, for the availability of botanicals, he states that the main ingredient for gin has to be either imported our sourced from the Himalayas in the north and that Goa is no different than any other part of the country when it comes to sourcing botanicals. As regards to water quality which Goa touts about, he is of the view that since all water in the production process has to be demineralised, the oriGinal water quality should not really matter.

But when it comes to Goa as the watering hole, he believes so that it is a great marketing tool. “The spirit of trying out new things is certainly important, especially since so many tourists come to Goa and take back gin bottles with them.”

Ambrosia: What is the reason for resurgence of gin which had taken a beating when vodka entered the Indian market?

Virmani: Vodka did this to gin in the 1950s globally. Gin has come back primarily because of the resurgence of cocktail bars which propagate classic cocktails, many of which just happen to use gin as their base. Ambrosia: There is a talk about uniqueness of the botanicals that goes into gin making. From a consumer perspective, what does botanicals signify?Virmani: Botanicals are what separate one gin from another. They are the main flavour components in any gin. Also, only high quality gins like ours use actual botanicals as opposed to artificial flavouring used by the cheaper, cold-compounded gins.

Ambrosia: What kind of growth are you seeing in the overall Gin market in India?

Virmani: The premium+ gin market in India (which excludes the low-end mass produced gins) are growing phenomenally well; easily around 30%+ CAGR. Ambrosia: We see a lot of premium brands being launched, is it because they are not meant for the masses?Virmani: Craft gin can only ever be premium. A low-priced gin, will not ever be a craft product. Even so, we aim to make our gins as accessible as possible.

Ambrosia: Could you tell us about the spark that led to the creation of Greater Than?

Virmani: The spark was quite simply the growing disbelief that India was not able to produce a single brand of gin that we could proudly call our own. It did not make sense to us, especially since India was the birthplace of the Gin & Tonic as well as the heart of the world spice trade.

Ambrosia: Which are the markets it is presently available now and what are your expansion plans?

Virmani: Our gins are present in seven different states across India currently as well as in over 15 countries outside India. We continue to grow as far and wide as we can without over-stretching ourselves. Assam has been our newest addition within India while New Zealand has become our most recent export market to come online.

Ambrosia: How is Hapusa different from Greater Than?

Virmani: Hapusa is a very small batch produced gin. It is primarily made with Himalayan juniper along with other botanicals found and sourced from across the country.

Ambrosia: Which are the markets it is present in – how do the two compete with each other – what is the USP of both?

Virmani: Greater Than is a classic London Dry Gin and is ideal for making cocktails or Gin & Tonics. Hapusa however, is far more characteristic and best enjoyed as a sipping gin or included in stirred cocktails like the Negroni or Martini.

Ambrosia: What next from ‘Nao Spirits’?

Virmani: Lots more