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Celebrating 200 years of the Johnnie Walker story from Diageo Archive

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

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

Christine McCafferty

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

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

Jhonnie Walker Grocery Shop Inventory list from 1825

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

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

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

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

The Jhonnie Walker Still Going Strong image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neeraj Kumar of Beam Suntory on the COVID Impact

Undoubtedly the global economies have been in a tizzy due to the ongoing pandemic situation. While the markets and businesses are starting to open slowly, the F&B industry hasn’t seen a more challenging situation. While converting their manufacturing facilities to produce hand sanitizers to help the government might have eased the burden temporarily, manufacturers are eagerly awaiting the good times to roll back.

In a quick interaction with Ambrosia, Neeraj Kumar, MD, Beam Suntory India commented on the how the ongoing pandemic impacted the industry and also the efforts that his company is making during this time with nearly 60 days retail lockdown for duty-free shops, bars, hotels and restaurants continuing to remain shut. “As a world leader in premium spirits, on-premise outlets play an important role in Beam Suntory’s business in India. In our commitment to support the F&B community, we partnered with NRAI to pledge support of INR 1 Crore to provide relief to the staff of member restaurants who have passionately supported the industry with their talent. We also rolled out the ‘learn and earn’ program through our global bartending engagement program, ‘The Blend’ which encouraged bartenders to utilize their time at home effectively by taking up online training modules spread across 50 sessions, with prizes for the participants.”

Despite the cases ramping up and India becoming one of the top 3 countries affected by the pandemic the government is making numerous efforts to revive the industry. And this move is welcomed by Kumar as he states ‘we support the Government’s decision to open e-commerce channels for online sales and home delivery of alcohol in some states, which has led to the much-needed growth in off-trade for the alcobev brands. We hope there is a continuous expansion of e-commerce channels as we move forward.’

As a company Beam Suntory though isn’t only focusing on the business, but also channeling their CSR to spread more awareness of social distancing and safety measures. “As social distancing continues to be the norm, we have also partnered with ISWAI to bring forth a program called ‘Safe Shield’ to educate retailers on safety measures as they open their shops. These include keeping a distance of 2 meters between two people, not having more than 5 people in the store at a given time and keeping hygiene as the top priority by sanitizing the area and salesmen wearing masks at all times,” adds Kumar.

Beware of Online frauds while ordering home delivery of alcohol

– Bhavya Desai

With the center allowing the sale of alcohol online in many states, an unprecedented rise in the number of online frauds while ordering alcohol have been reported. Most of these cases are based of social media accounts, especially Facebook where fake profiles in the name of wine shops/retailers have been created along with a number to order the products from.

The consumers call the number provided and are asked to make part or full payment of the products ordered by providing the card details, resulting in the money debited from their card by the online fraudsters.

If you are a consumer who is looking to order alcohol online then it is important to first note if your state is allowing home delivery of alcohol or not? For instance, consumers have been commonly misinterpreting that home delivery is currently allowed in all states resulting in them falling prey to such scams.



The list of the state/city and the method in which they are allowing delivery are below:

State/City How orders are taken

Delhi – E-token

Odisha – Online order and home delivery

Tamil Nadu – Online order and home delivery

Punjab – Order through call and home delivery

Pune – E-token

West Bengal – Online order and home delivery

Mumbai – Order through call and home delivery

Chhattisgarh – Online order and home delivery

Kerala – Book online and collect from store

Currently most of the ordering for home delivery across the states are being done via state govt apps or online platforms governed by the state regulators. Punjab and Mumbai are the only exceptions to this rule where the consumer can call for home delivery of alcohol.

But as reported in our previous article (see article: Maharashtra allows home delivery of Alcohol – sans Mumbai), since Mumbai is in the red containment zone there are no home deliveries that are permitted in the city. Also with wine shops not allowed to operate due to the lockdown in the city, officially they can’t deliver alcohol even if you ordered them.

Making things situation worst for the consumers currently is the reduced banking staff to report the fraudulent transactions. Consumers have had to wait for a longer time than usual while calling the banking hotlines to report such incidents on finding out that they have been duped.

License fee should be charged on a Pro-Rata basis

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the industry to a standstill, continuous efforts are being made by the industry stakeholders and manufacturers to work on a plan for the future. Ambrosia speaks to Deepak Roy, Chairman of CIABC and on the Board of Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd about CIABC’s efforts towards the industry.

What is the plan of action for CIABC to revive the industry?
CIABC’s role is to convince State Governments to open up liquor trade as soon as possible within Covid19 guidelines. Governments need to open more shops, take people off shops through online home delivery systems, which partially they have already and also ease the procedural bottlenecks at the factories. Also facilitate cash rotation for companies as the industry is geared up to adapt itself for the new world during and post-Corona. Governments need to move rapidly to reshape regulations.

Despite bans being lifted how can the operations be normalised?
Since bans have generally been lifted and trade is being permitted in most states, the normalisation of operations is on level of threat perceptions, bans may keep getting imposed and removed on localised scale. That seems to be the approach for all non-essential items currently, which alcohol is considered to be in India. We understand that health is a priority and will support Governments in such moves.

Can CIABC work in tandem with NRAI to get the government to partially open restaurants especially in five star hotels and stand-alone outlets?
As a responsible body, we trust that the Government is best placed to decide when is appropriate time to restart restaurants. We understand and appreciate the challenges social outings bring to social distancing. We also share the business pains of the bars and restaurants industry in light of the shutdown. From our end we have made several suggestions to the Government to help out the industry such as permission to sell stock in packaged form as takeaways. Some states have already implemented it.

How can CIABC help the government to open the sales of liquor further, offer free masks and discounted sanitizers to help in the containment of the virus?
CIABC will continue to work hand-in-hand with the government as well as its members to encourage all efforts to lessen the spread of COVID. Our members are already making individual efforts in supplying alcohol based sanitizers and will keep doing from time to time the campaigns or distribution of masks. These will not be CIABC led initiatives but led by our members individually.

What concessions would you expect from the government to compensate for lost revenues?
Unlike many other industries, we do not seek concessions from the Government. All we seek is implementation of fair trade principles, which under any circumstances are right of a legally permitted industry. These include, charging of licenses on pro rata basis (reducing the license fee to the extent of non-sale days).
State governments must start paying our members on due dates. Several states are delaying payments and this is causing a lot of strain on stretched resources in lieu of lower business. Expect states to take steps to avoid crowding at outlets by improving ease of access to alcohol for desirous consumers; a. Increase the number of retail outlets. b. Stretch shop timings to avoid social crowding. c. Allow home deliveries and or online sale of liquor. Not to increase excise duty indiscriminately which will have dampening effect on the volumes of the industry.

Do you think the license fees can be reduced for next year?
The license fee should be charged on a pro rata basis taking into account the loss of sale due closure or lockdown.

Is CIABC planning to launch a digital campaign to underline the importance of opening up liquor shops which would target consumers who form the vote banks?
There are no plans to launch digital campaign. We are in direct touch with almost all state governments and would like to work hand in hand with the governments to balance their revenue needs as well as ensure that social crowding does not spread Covid.

Beam Suntory India targets $1 billion in sales by 2030

With leading brands like Teacher’s and Jim Beam, Neeraj Kumar, Managing Director, Beam Suntory, India, is given the ambitious goal of reaching $1 billion in sales by 2030.

As the new MD of India what is your first order of business?

In keeping with our global objective to be the world’s most admired and fastest growing premium spirits company, our ambition in India will be to further develop our business here and join the US and Japan as one of Beam Suntory’s largest markets.

To help achieve our ambition and ensure focus, we have simplified our International region structure and India is now one of three Business Units that comprise Beam Suntory’s International region. In India, with leading brands like Teacher’s, Jim Beam, The Ardmore, Laphroaig, Bowmore, Sauza and premium brands under our House of Suntory portfolio, we have an aspiration of reaching $1 billion in sales by 2030. Our most immediate priority is to build on the current momentum of our premium portfolio across different consumer occasions by leveraging our East-Meets-West competitive advantage. We will also continue to leverage the passion of our people for water and the environment by continuing to commit to initiatives supporting environmental sustainability.

What are the goals and objectives that you have set for the company this year?

We continue to develop our presence in India as a growth engine of the future by unlocking new growth opportunities to build scale. Our Vision into Action strategy leverages three pillars: Creating Famous Brands, Building Winning Markets and Fueling our Growth. This strategy provides continuity with an added emphasis on premiumisation and doing business the right way. Like in our other geographies, we’re demonstrating the unique power of East-meets-West. We blend the best of the East – including an unparalleled commitment to quality, continuous improvement and Dreaming Big – with the best of the West, reflected in an entrepreneurial, innovative and winning mindset.

While the Indian market presents a great opportunity, there are also a number of challenges. Can you highlight both in your company’s case? Firstly, we see an incredible opportunity with the growing LDA consumer base and premiumisation being witnessed in the market where consumers prefer quality over quantity. The Spirits category is large, yet the route to market can be complex and potentially pose challenges across the various markets in India. Our focus is to build brands which can be trusted and delight our consumers in a responsible manner. A key challenge is to be able to build brands in a scalable and sustainable manner.

How do you plan to get Teacher’s to attain its past growth and market share?

Teacher’s is one of the strongest and most loved Scotch brands in India. It has a resilient brand equity. We continue to see great momentum with Teacher’s and over the past few years we have focussed our efforts and resources to create premium innovations like the Teacher’s Golden Thistle 12YO which has found tremendous acceptance across markets in India. Teacher’s remains a strong consumer choice and in the last few years has grown in line with our category footprint – including during disruptive events like the highway bars ban a couple of years ago.

Which are the other brands you would like to focus on for the Indian market?

We believe Jim Beam has a huge potential in the Indian market especially because of the growing number of Legal Drinking Age consumers who like to experiment with new tastes. Jim Beam is a versatile serve and can be enjoyed with a variety of mixers or just straight. It’s differentiated taste is perfectly suited for young metro consumers who are looking to up-trade to high quality Bourbon whiskey. Globally and in Asia, Bourbon is a fast-growing segment and we intend to build Jim Beam into a fun and vibrant brand.

We are also very excited to scale up our premium portfolio and building The Ardmore, our newly introduced Scotch Single Malt which was voted the best BIO Single Malt in India in the 2019 Ambrosia Awards. The Ardmore is a balanced smoky Single Malt and a new taste for Indian consumers.

While Hibiki Whisky is globally recognised for its taste and quality, in India it still isn’t a very popular name. Do you have any plans to promote it since India is primarily a Whisky drinking market?

Japanese whiskies continue to draw very high attention and interest globally thanks to their exclusive taste and craftsmanship. We are assessing the India market opportunity to decide what would be the right time to introduce our luxury Japanese whisky portfolio in India. Our parent company Suntory is fully committed to support the re-introduction of these brands in India.

Gin is also a growing category in India. What are your plans for the same with Roku being a popular product?

Roku has been a huge success globally since its launch. It is already a familiar name amongst the gin consumers in India thanks to its spectacular presence in duty free and other global markets. We are exploring the India market opportunity to finalise the appropriate time to introduce the House of Suntory luxury portfolio in India.

Which are the major regions that Beam Suntory could see good growth in the Indian market? Are you looking at new territories?

We would like to consolidate our presence in the major whisky markets in India. While the metro cities in India present a showcase and consumption opportunity, the growth in mini metros and towns is spectacular. Teacher’s and Jim Beam enjoy strong distribution and availability across domestic and duty-free channels.

What new marketing initiatives you would like to initiate to take advantage of the growing market?

Growing our presence at the On Trade and Horeca channel is a high priority. Building Sales force effectiveness and focussing on vital consumer touchpoints will be another initiative. We are committed to the strengthening of brand equity and share gains for Teacher’s and drive trials of Jim Beam & The Ardmore At the very top end, consumers can expect our luxury whisky and gin portfolio in top accounts.

Despite the challenges in India, how important is the Indian market for Beam Suntory?

As I mentioned earlier, India is a strategic priority for Beam Suntory. We have an ambitious growth agenda commensurate with our demographic dividend and leading emerging market status. Our robust investments on feet on street, talent and channel expansion reflect a strong commitment from Beam Suntory to the Indian market. Additionally, we are committed to deliver our vision of Growing for Good, protecting water and the environment, giving back to our communities and promoting responsible consumption of our products.

This summer, it must be Beer

After a prolonged winter which benefitted IMFL sales it is now time for beer sales to perk up.

The beer market in India has been growing steadily over the years. is currently in its growth stage. The market is evolving from manufacturing usual beer products such as strong- lager beers to craft beers, Mead and Apple Ciders adopting trends and technologies from markets such as America and Europe. Today, there is presence of more than 140 beer brands in Indian beer market, which could address the palate of each customer segment. The per capita beer consumption in India is still very low compared to other countries in Asia Pacific region and therefore the market could witness huge growth in the coming years owing to factors such as shift from hard liquor to beer consumption by consumers in India, increase in disposable income, change in societal perspective and others.

The beer market in India is at its growth stage with major companies in the market looking for further market expansion with introduction of new products and by strengthening their distribution network. The market has been growing majorly due to increase in number of youth population, higher disposable income, rising preference of consumers for low alcohol beverages and others. Drinking in bars is fast becoming a social phenomenon in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and with emergence of craft beers, the growth in beer consumption increased rapidly. Besides the rising number of pubs and bars, another factor which increased beer consumption was increase in premium modern trade and on-premise outlets in metropolitan cities which increased the range of product availability and improved the retail environment. Some state governments, for instance Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, offered separate licenses for beer sale further boosting growth prospects for the industry. 

Beer sales in India grew 4.6% in 2018, helped by the diminishing impact of a highway ban, demonetisation, but companies expect sales to taper off this year due to an increase in taxation and liquor curbs during the general election.

Growth last year was still slower than in the previous years, when it ranged from 5.2% to 18% between 2009 and 2016, according to Global-Data Plc, a UK-based research agency.



The beer industry has seen various merger and acquisition in India which has concentrated market competition, further and further during the last five years. For instance, acquisitions such as US-based Molson Coors Brewing Company acquiring Mount Shivalik Breweries (Thunderbolt beer manufacturer) in 2015, AB In Bev acquisition of SAB Miller in 2016 and so forth.

 

It is observed that Indian beer market is facing multiple obstacles which have influenced its growth potential, such as licensing restrictions, high taxes and advertising bans and these could be reasons for low beer consumption per capita in the country as compared to other regions in Asia Pacific region.



The Southern and western regions in India were witnessed to dominate the country’s beer market in FY’2018 in terms of sales volume. One of the main reasons for their dominance was that, majority of the states in these regions do not have winter season and has either humid or summer season prevailing for most of the months in an year, which acts as another factor for increased beer consumption in these states.. On the other hand, north and east side states grabbed the remaining market during FY’2018.



Competition stage in the country’s beer segment was witnessed to be concentrated major 3 players in terms of sales volume in FY’2018. Companies compete on the basis of product variants product quality and distribution network, brand value and promotion strategies. Some of the major players operating within this segment include UB Group, Carlsberg and Anheuser-Busch InBev and other players include Molson Coors, Mohan Meakin, White Rhino, B9 Beverages Pvt Ltd, Arbor Brewing Company India, Gateway Brewing Company and others. Pricing, brand value as well as marketing strategies adopted by a particular company are considered as of high importance in order to reach a wider target audience in the country.



Over the forecasted period, India beer market will witness various acquisitions, entry of new players and brands, and tie-ups which will drive this market further towards growth. It is expected that the demand for premium beer will rise in the future with an increase in personal disposable income and higher living standards. It is also expected that most of the state governments will start to delink beer taxation from IMFL soon on the basis of alcohol content paving the way for rational growth in the market. Both in terms of revenues and sales volume, the market is expected to attain high growth over the forecast period FY’2018-FY’2023.



Revenue in the Beer segment amounts to US$12,393m in 2019. The market is expected to grow annually by 8.0% (CAGR 2019-2023).

In global comparison, most revenue is generated in United States (US$77,029m in 2019).



In relation to total population figures, per person revenues of US$9.05 are generated in 2019.

The average per capita consumption stands at 3.6 L in 2019.


Market leader Heineken-controlled United Breweries grew in double digits last year, ahead of the overall market. Both beer and Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) declined 3% in 2017. While India’s IMFL market recovered and grew 10% last year, the most since 2012, the beer category hasn’t seen a similar surge. A key reason was lower demand in two crucial states.



A year ago, West Bengal increased duty on beer to 45.5% from 30% in January and then reduced it to 42.7% in March after initial supply disruptions, leading to tipplers shifting from beer to lower-priced spirits. In Maharashtra, excise duty on beer was increased by 17% and the revised pricing structure was obtained only after mid-December 2017, leading to a shortage of beer as manufacturers cut back on supplies.

As India is a strong beer market with over 80% sales of strong beer, international players see a a huge opportunity for states to adapt taxation policies that are based on alcohol content and not absolute volume. India is not among the top 10 beer markets in the world, but is the second-largest consumer base globally.”



In India, the liquor market is regulated, with high levels of taxation. In many parts, the state government controls wholesale or retail distribution.Over the past two years, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have changed policies to allow liquor sales only through government owned corporations, similar to states such as Delhi, Rajasthan, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Heineken, owner of United Breweries, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Carlsberg, the world’s top three brewers that together control about 90% of India’s beer market, have been betting on premium brands to drive sales in the warm, tropical country with promising demographics and increasing affluence.