Tag Archives: alcobev sector

UK wants to say Cheers with Scotch despite tariffs

In a recent visit to India, UK Ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to push for a Free Trade Agreement. The idea was to have fewer trade barriers between the two countries. In other words, an agreement that would help both countries ship products and services without excessive taxes.

For the UK Scotch whisky is the elixir perhaps because of Brexit. UK voted to leave the European Union and perhaps what went unnoticed was third of the country’s whisky exports -  £1.3 billion ($1.65 billion) worth actually, went to EU countries. Post-Brexit however, that isn’t the case. The move has cost the scotch whiskey industry £5 million ($6.3 million) every week. And now they’re being forced to work with every EU country independently. They have to deal with different shipping norms, separate customs requirements and a whole host of packaging regulations.

It turns out that all these issues have prompted the UK to think differently and find newer markets. First, they targetted Australia and struck a deal — to remove a 5% tariff on scotch whisky. Elsewhere the UK managed to obtain the coveted “protected status” for its whisky by inking separate deals with Japan, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This will protect their scotch whisky from imitation, misuse, or any other forms of intellectual abuse.

And the focus shifted to India, a country that consumes more whiskey than any other country in the world. One in every two bottles of whiskey is now sold in India and the UK wants to make up for the loss in sales in the European Union by growing its market in India.

The UK allows ALL imports of Alcoholic Beverages into the country to be taxed to NIL customs duty and this is not just from India, it’s from 70+ other countries, that supply AlcoBev to the UK. Similarly, the conditions about a minimum three-year maturity, type of substrate used, the absence of additives, etc. are all equally applicable to Whiskies from all supplying countries, including the UK. So, there are no India-specific barriers that some players are seeking removal of. On the other hand, India imposes customs duty of 150% on all imports of Alcoholic Spirits, from all countries including the UK (which has the largest share of such imports), says I P Suresh Menon, Secretary General, ISWAI (International Spirits and Wine Association of India).

But the whiskey definitely dominates the Indian market, almost contributing 60% of sales to the IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) segment. But if you’re a person who enjoys a glass every now and then, you’d know there’s a difference between Indian whiskey and Scotch whisky.

Scotch whiskey is typically of Scottish origin and made from grains - primarily barley. On the other hand, IMFL is made from molasses, a by-product of sugar production and grains. It is much cheaper. So in some ways, IMFL liquor outsells its foreign counterpart in a massive way. But there’s another roadblock for foreign manufacturers - Taxes! See, taxing liquor is a wonderful source of revenue for the Indian government. For instance, five southern states namely Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala generate 10% of their revenues from taxes on liquor sales alone. And you can see why they want to impose even higher taxes on imported liquor. In fact, import duties can go as high as 150% in some cases. And that means, even though Scotch Whisky imports in the country have risen 200% in the past decade, it still only commands a tiny 2% market share in the Indian markets.

Now imagine if the tariffs were removed completely. What would that mean for the UK and Scotch Whisky industry. Well market sources contend that the market share could reach as high as 6%.

And so you can see why this makes total sense for whiskey manufacturers in the UK. But do Indians benefit in any way?

Well, for starters Scotch Whisky will likely become more affordable and more Indian whisky producers will use more Scotch in their IMFL and will premiumise their brands to an extent that the difference between Scotch and IMFL would not be much different. So it will mean that Indian consumers will get a product as good as Scotch at a favourable price. But cutting importing duties could also bump up revenues for the government. For instance, last year, the Maharashtra government slashed excise duty by 50% on imported liquor. And it now expects revenue to rise by ₹150 crores — from the sale of imported scotch annually.

And finally, with over 19 million new consumers coming of “legal drinking age” each year, India is definitely a market that liquor makers would like to tap into. Guess it will be a win-win situation for consumers. The Indian government may be tempted to go ahead with deal as the possibility of revenues rising in a sustainable manner is a good possibility.

According to Director General of the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC apex body for domestic liquor firms), Vinod Giri, this FTA also holds significant importance for India in the scope of future trade with the United Kingdom as trade competitors like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan enjoy duty-free merits under the UK’s generalised scheme of preferences. Indian liquor producers are keen to enjoy newer markets for their products in the United Kingdom but are hindered by the stipulation that whiskey exported to the Brits should be Grain based and aged for three years. At the same time, liquor produced in India is not aged.

  • Refined Oil (9.7% of all UK goods imported from India)
  • Clothing (9.6%)
  • Medical and pharmaceutical Products (5.6 %)
  • Miscellaneous Metal Manufactures (5.1%)
  • Textile Fabrics (5.0%)

All these products were the primary imports to India from the United Kingdom, but as the pact stands on the brink of either collapse or being executed after several reconsiderations. A recent list had brought forward 240 odd items which would face trade duty deductions once the agreement is executed. From this pool of 240 things, a few that stand out are whisky, cars, vaccines, basmati rice, wool, and tea premix. As of now, no indication has been released about the possible way out of the situation, but in the coming future, it’s possible that the pact might be passed with several reconsiderations and follow-up procedures. Currently, diplomatic negotiations of the highest level are going on between the countries.

Amid reports of the UK seeking massive tariff concessions on imports of scotch whiskey during ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, liquor sector association Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has written to the government strongly objecting to any plans to slash Basic Customs Duty (BCD).

A reduction in BCD, it said, will adversely affect Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) brands since imports already dominate the Indian alcoholic beverages market. CIABC has been part of several recent meetings hosted by the Ministry of Commerce with stakeholders before the trade talks with the UK.

“India exports just ₹5 crore worth of alcoholic beverages annually to the UK against an import of ₹1,300 crores. Exports to the UK constitute only 0.2% of India’s total exports of alcoholic beverages whereas imports from the UK are 24% of India’s total import of alcoholic beverages,” said Vinod Giri, DG, CIABC.

Giri further noted that “restrictive” trade policies are also hampering the growth of Indian exports. “While the export of alcoholic beverages from India stood at 7.3 million cases (9 litre each) in the year 2019-20, exports to the entire EU (including the UK) were less than 30,000 cases which consisted of Indian super premium malt whiskies,” he pointed out.

CIABC said that the United Kingdom should also remove restrictions such as a minimum three years’ maturation period for whiskey and rum, since it has been scientifically established that in warm Indian conditions, spirit ages 3-3.5 times faster than in the UK. Giri added that a BCD cut would skew the balance of trade.

A notion worth dispelling is that Scotch whiskies are costlier to produce; it is 50% more expensive to produce it in India than in Scotland.

In wake of the Indo-UK trade discussions, many ‘experts’ argue for reduction in tariff, particularly slashing custom tariffs on imported Scotch and on ‘Intermediate’ products which they say are nothing but high-strength, potable, undenatured ethyl alcohol used for bottling and blending in India.

They argue on three main grounds. One, that India has a large trade surplus in the category and can afford greater imports; two, customs duty reduction on intermediate products will encourage ‘Make in India’; and three, even if tariff is reduced the bulk of consumption will remain locally produced whiskies — so why bother.

This industry contributes nearly ₹250,000 crore in taxes and for most states it constitutes 15-30% of revenue. Customs duty is not even ₹5000 crore in comparison. Second, this industry uses agricultural products as primary raw material and nearly 50 lakh farmers depend on it. It provides employment to 20 lakh people. Any disruption will have widespread ramifications for the government, farmers and labour market.

The problem with the first argument is that it hides the true balance of trade on alcoholic beverages using a wider head of ‘Food and Drinks’. If one separates alcoholic beverages/products for human consumption from the wider clubbing of ‘Food and Drinks’, a very different picture emerges.

As per DGFT data for 2018-19, India exports only ₹5 crore worth of alcoholic products/beverages to the UK, against import of ₹1300 crore. Clubbing alcohol under a much bigger ‘Food & Drink’ category to claim favourable balance of trade is highly misleading.

The second argument is also a misconception. Scotch Whisky goes through two major stages of productions — distillation and bottling. The ‘Intermediate’ Scotch whisky is actually the output of the first stage, it has been produced and matured in Scotland. What happens in India is only bottling. Therefore, while incentivising intermediate products through reduced or zero duty will lead to an increase of usage of bottling plants in India, which will be a big loss for Indian farmers and manufacturers.

The third argument misses out on three vital points. One, in product categories with multiple price segments like whisky, consumers seamlessly shift to the next category up or down depending on affordability.

So, when a Scotch whisky is sold at a lower price it takes away consumers from products in the price segment, starting a domino effect that makes the domestic industry the net loser. Two, introduction of Scotch whisky at lower price attacks the profit driving end of portfolio of Indian companies, thus jeopardising their viability. Third, Indian premium whiskies like Amrut, Paul John or Rampur are now regarded amongst the best in the world but are unable to make the same headway in the domestic market due to an unsupportive regime and reducing customs duty further just will not help.

Another notion worth dispelling is that Scotch whiskies are costlier to produce. Rather, it costs at least 50% more to produce a whisky of similar quality in India than in Scotland. This is primarily on account of a higher cost of capital and higher taxes in India, interstate restrictions and higher evaporation losses.

Also, many states offer concessionary taxes on imported products, but reduction in customs tariffs cannot be done without removing compensatory state-based concessions as otherwise it will create a hugely discriminatory tax regime against Indian products.

If we talk about reciprocal duty concessions, the problem is that barriers put up by the UK are not tariff based but non-tariff ones. India, being a sugar producing country, has evolved whisky recipes based on spirit distilled from molasses. The UK does not accept this as it is not “recipe standards”. The result of these non-tariff barriers is that of the 70 lakh cases of whisky exported from India every year, the whole of the EU including the UK accounts for less than 30,000!

Indian industry is not against reducing customs duty on alcohol, but it should be in a phased manner and up to a point where it creates a level playing field.

Accordingly, it has put forward its recommendation to reduce import taxes, aggregate of customs duty and AIDC, from 150% to 100% now and to 75% in five years’ time. It has also recommended a threshold import price for taxation at $5 per bottle, and reciprocal concessions from the UK allowing whiskies from India to be allowed in the UK market as ‘Indian Whisky’ without minimum maturity conditions.

ABD launches ‘ICONiQ White Whisky’ in Metaverse

Allied Blenders and Distillers (ABD), the domestic alcobev company, has launched of its new whisky “ICONiQ White” on the metaverse, before the offering becomes available in the market.

The brand has been launched first in ABD MetaBar – the organisation’s presence in the metaverse. The brand will subsequently be launched in the physical world in markets nationally.

ABD India forayed into the metaverse with ABD MetaBar, an immersive virtual reality space providing consumers and enthusiasts with a differentiated experience of product discovery. Optimised for both mobile and desktop usage, the MetaBar taps into the growing interest in the Metaverse especially the youth and their willingness to experiment with novel digital activations.

Shekhar Ramamurthy, Executive Deputy Chairman, ABD, said, “A core belief at ABD is to ‘Think Differently’. The launch of ICONiQ White in ABD MetaBar, ahead of its physical launch, gives consumers an opportunity to immerse with the brand before they experience it in stores. We believe this is the shape of things to come and ABD would like to lead that change.”

Bikram Basu, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, ABD, said, “ICONiQ White is a contemporary whisky for blend, packaging, and positioning. It will appeal to the young adult and plays in an affordable premium segment which has the largest pool of consumers today. We are here with something very special and here to win.”

Sohini Pani, Founder and Managing Director – River, said, “Crafting the communication mix for ‘ICONiQ White’ was a delightful experience. It all started with the name. ‘ICONiQ’ is bold and trendy, while ‘White’ is a surprising twist in the world of whisky. The visual space and the idea pitch the brand as a playful companion for fun-loving younger audiences. The icing on the cake was the opportunity for us to build ground-up the ABD MetaBar a few months ago and work towards the launch of Iconiq White on the platform.”

Campari Group Launches X-Rated in India

The Campari Group recently launched its popular fusion liqueur ‘X-Rated’ in the Indian market. Known for its unique bottle shape, bold pink liquid, sweet and delicious flavour; it is one of the fastest growing flavoured spirits in Asia. Famous among young, trend-seeking females as one of the finest celebratory drink, X-Rated is made with ultra-premium vodka sourced from Champagne and Ardennes regions of France.

It is an exotic blend of ultra-premium French vodka, blood oranges from Sicily in Italy and fused with tropical mango and passion fruit juice sourced from Brazil for a unique taste experience. The tropical fruit flavour with edgy citrus notes gives a long, smooth and semi- sweet finish.

On the occasion of the launch, Daniel Schwalb, Managing Director South East Asia and India for the Campari Group, says, “We are excited to expand our India portfolio with the launch of our globally successful fusion liqueur brand, X-Rated. A perfect blend of ultra-premium French vodka and tropical fruit, X -Rated is expected to become the preferred liqueur choice, especially for the discerning women consumers in this country.”

Arnab Ghosh, Marketing Director, Campari India also shares his excitement for the launch, “We are ecstatic to debut X-Rated in the Indian market. With this launch, we are looking forward to establishing a strong foot hold in a segment of the market which finds a strong resonance with the millennial consumer.”

This unique, bright-pink liqueur is well positioned to lead the growing cocktail appreciation trend in the country. It is best enjoyed over ice, on the rocks, or as a flavourful, colourful addition to champagne or a delicious cocktail.

X-Rated is a premium liqueur made with high quality ultra-premium vodka and tropical fruit juices. The liquid is made of 100% ultra-premium French vodka from Champagne and Ardennes. The mouth coating flavour is based on blood orange from Sicily in Italy and tropical mango and passion fruits juice from Brazil. The fusion liqueur is made with 100% pure organic fruit juices which is fused with ultra-premium French vodka in a secret process and is available in 750 ML and is 17% ABV.

Pernod Ricard and JCDecaux sign an unprecedented Data Technical Alliance

Pernod Ricard and JCDecaux, recently launched an innovative digital partnership in data management through the roll-out of a solution called Data Portal. This solution enables a company to centralise, in a single point, all the data from its different entities around the world, facilitating their use and sharing. The Data Portal is aligned with the transformation objectives of both Groups, who have placed data at the heart of their business and growth strategy.

The tool has been developed since 2015 by the Pernod Ricard IT Data Center of Excellence team, which is already composed of 20 people and constantly growing. The Data Portal, a particularly easy-to-use and intuitive solution, is a true accelerator for digital transformation. Almost 7,000 Pernod Ricard employees find everyday information about sales or key figures for the development of their commercial strategies on it. Following initial discussions which started in 2020, the two Groups have decided to opt for an alliance between non-competitive partners, in order to enhance the Data Portal with their respective experience, co-developing technical ecosystems and benefitting from the cost synergies generated by combining their skills. This technology, which does not involve the exchange of data between the two companies, is conceded for free by Pernod Ricard, without any conditions or limitation of use. Each company then manages its data in line with legal data management requirements.

In a process of continual improvement, the collaborative and agile alliance between Pernod Ricard and JCDecaux will help accelerate the development of new data-related features and technologies and could then be opened up to other non-competitive companies, within the same legal framework and co-construction model. The project monitoring will be managed by Neoxia, a trusted third party, who will continue to ensure the platform’s developments and integration in line with the roadmap co-defined by Pernod Ricard and JCDecaux.

Alexandre Ricard, Chairman & CEO at Pernod Ricard, notes that, “The Data Portal is a wonderful asset for our Group. This solution, developed by our Data Center of Excellence, is a key tool for our growth mindset untitled the “Conviviality Platform” in which data is a major issue. The Data Portal facilitates our teams’ work in order to provide each of our markets with the right product, at the right time, at the right price, to the right consumer. We’re delighted to share this innovation with JCDecaux and to benefit from each other’s experience.”

Jean-Charles Decaux, Chairman of the Executive Board and co-CEO of JCDecaux, adds, “As a company that believes in the power of collaboration to grow business, we are delighted to enter this technological alliance with Pernod Ricard that is focussed on data management. Underlining the strength of our joint approach to digital innovation, JCDecaux will play an active role in the development of the Data Portal, enhancing it with new features. Designed via an open innovation approach, this solution will help us achieve our data strategy and fulfil our objective of developing shared data management platforms within JCDecaux. This will in turn allow business units to capitalise upon this innovation for the benefit of our customers and partners, media agencies, advertisers and local authorities.”   

United Breweries launches new Heineken Silver in India

United Breweries, the country’s largest beer manufacturer and part of the Amsterdam-based Heineken group recently announced the launch of Heineken Silver, a smooth and refreshing beer that provides Indian consumers with a premium beverage that is truly designed for everyday social occasions.  

Heineken Silver is brewed by seasoned master brewers using natural ingredients, including Heineken’s famous A-yeast and quality pure malt.  

Rishi Pardal, Managing Director, United Breweries Limited, said, “Guided by our purpose of brewing the joy of true togetherness to inspire a better world, we are always looking to bring products to the market that match the needs of our consumers and keep up with ever-changing taste preferences across generations. We see modern consumers seeking beverages that are light, easy-to-drink and fit in well with their social occasions and Heineken Silver is perfectly designed for these moments. We are confident that the smooth and refreshing Heineken Silver will herald a new era of premiumisation in the Indian beer market.”  

Rajeev Sathyesh, Asia-Pacific Director, Brand – Heineken, said, “We are excited to launch this new member of the Heineken family, Heineken Silver, in India. This delightfully refreshing, smooth and easy-to-drink lager has received a lot of love in our other markets globally. We are confident that it will also appeal to the new generation of beer drinkers in India. Heineken Silver is brewed as an all-round crowd pleaser and the perfect partner to celebrate authentic moments of joy.” 

Heineken Silver is available in both on- and off-trade retail channels in Bengaluru. Heineken Silver’s 330-ml pint is priced at `120, the 500-ml can at `160 and the 650-ml bottle at `200 across off-trade retail outlets in Bengaluru. The beer comes in a sleek silver can and the iconic green bottle. Heineken Silver will also be launched in other markets very soon.  

Heineken Silver has a smooth and refreshing taste, retaining the signature fruity aroma of Heineken Original with a balanced, though slightly lower bitterness.

Have you been to these microbreweries in Bengaluru? If not, you should

In the late 1980s, when Ramada Pub off Church Street, next to the erstwhile popular Premier Bookshop, started vending ‘draught’ or ‘draft’ beer in mugs, it signalled the arrival of not just Bangalore’s but arguably India’s s first-ever pub, thanks to the ingenuity of Hari Khoday, who was known more for his XXX Rum then. A mug of beer cost only Rs. 2.75 paise with peanuts thrown in. It was a place where you could guzzle beer, not from a bottle, but in a mug, dispensed from a tap, connected to barrels of brewed beer got from the distillery. The concept of microbrewery came in much later. Ramada Pub was a tiny place where you jostled for space and guzzled beer with some loud music in the background.

Around the same time, The Pub, renamed later as NASA (guess one got spaced out just drinking beer then) got launched on Church Street and the music and the dim lighting gave fillip to beer drinkers to guzzle more. The Pub drew the upwardly mobile and then came Black Cadillac on Residency road which played rock music and also had regular gigs. I remember Vijay Mallya hosting some liquor-based events here for the media. These were happening places. Then there was Peco’s, Scottish Pub, Underground, Downtown and the like, all in and around Brigade Road, Residency Road, M.G. Road, becoming the city’s ‘beerholes’, if one may coin that term. And then from nowhere pubs started mushrooming across the hotspots of the city, earning Bangalore the moniker ‘Pub Capital of India’.

The city is a cauldron of cosmopolitan culture, with the tech crowd descending from all over the country and elsewhere too. The techies gave Bangalore a new edge and soon, pubs had to re-invent themselves, and voila there was the birth of microbreweries. The pubs of now are very distinct, trying to cater to the hip crowd, setting trends in not just the social drinking habit, but in cuisine, in music, in events and what-have-you. At one time, pub crawl was quite popular, now not so. With an estimated over 500 pubs in the city, these ‘beer-holes’ have to be up there to cater to the discerning and demanding beer connoisseurs and they are, mind it. From pubs to microbreweries, Bangalore or Bengaluru has indeed come a long way from the days of Ramada. Here are some of the new age breweries you can check out to get a taste of the beer world.

Geist Brewing Factory, the pioneer

Among the first to come up with a brewing factory has been Geist. It was in 2006, Geist was incorporated, thanks to Narayan and Paul and later Mohan, software guys who plunge to brew some of the finest beers Bangalore has known. Initially they made 300-400 batches of beer and then when the microbreweries in the city became ‘in’, Geist was right there. When The Biere Club opened in 2013 and later Byg Brewski, Geist became the catalyst. As the pubs grew, Geist set up its own brewery and supplies draft beer to Bootlegger, Hangover and Tipsy Bull, among many other restaurants and pubs.

The name ‘Geist’ comes from the German word ‘zeitgeist’, which is used to define “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era”. The sentiment perfectly captures the evolution of Indian beer drinkers, and the resulting rise of the discerning Indian beer enthusiast and you bet, Bengalureans, by birth or otherwise, fall in that category.

To spread their love for beer, they set up their own Geist Brewing Factory – Restaurant and Beer Garden on Old Madras Road, serving their signature crafted beers – Geist Weiss Guy, Geist Kamacitra, Geist Rauch-a-Fella, Geist Marzen, Geist Golden Ale, Geist Witty Wit, Geist Stouter Space stout and Geist Uncle Dunkel. The ambience here is just about perfect to down a beer or two under the shade of a huge banyan tree.

The Geist Rauch-a-Fella is a smoked wheat beer, inspired by the famous smoke beers of Bamberg, while the Geist Stouter Space has delightful notes of chocolate and aromas of vanilla pods. Inspired by Luponic Distortion from Firestone Walker, the Geist Golden Ale series is designed to showcase different hop varieties. The best way to find out how all their beers taste is to go check it out, right?

The Biere Club, welcome to the club

When it opened in 2010, it started a new trend in the pub city – microbrewing and it caught on like raging fire. The Biere Club located, coincidentally on Vittal Mallya road (the man who built United Breweries, later Vijay Mallya gave Kingfisher global branding) got Bengalureans interested in microbrewing, vending beers including wheat, stout, lager and Belgian style ale. They have even experimented with ‘ragi’, locally grown millet, but one must try out the combination of strawberry & vanilla, lemon & chilli and bayleaf. The Moscow Mule created with ale and ginger ale is a drink that finds favour during summers. The Biere Club has another branch in the IT belt, called The Biere Street.

Byg Brewski, Asia’s largest brewpub

This is supposedly Asia’s largest premium brewpub – Byg Brewski Brewing Company or simply Byg Brewski, which is located in Hennur, away from the central business district. It is massive, with a sprawling 65,000 square feet of space which can seat about 3,000 people at a time in five different experience zones. Truly, the experience makes people come back for more and not just for the home-made craft beers. The ambience is an experience in itself with lush greenery and a lake within and a waterfall to boot. The microbrewery serves some amazing beers including Byg Wit (a medium bodied beer, low in bitterness with fruity esters); Byg Hefeweizen, a Bavarian style wheat beer; Byg Triple, a Belgian style strong ale; New Zealand Pilsner; Byg IPA, West Coast style IPA brewed with American hops; Coffee Chocolate Stout, a dark rich decadent stout and many more for one to quench one’s thirst and to experience some of the best brews this side of the world.

Arbor Brewing Company, everything American about it

Decade-old Arbor Brewing Company or simply ABC is supposedly India’s first American craft brewery. This has origins in Arbor Brewing Company, founded by Matt Greff who pioneered American craft beer revolution at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having tasted American craft beer while studying at the University of Michigan, Gaurak Sikka headed straight to the ‘Pub Capital’ to launch ABC in 2012 and there has been no looking back. In 2018, Sikka took Arbor Brewing Company to Saligao in Goa and both places are rocking for their American craft beer and everything American. The wooden interiors give the place an authentic look, while what can one say about the beers ABC vends – Bangalore Bliss; Phat Abbot Tripel; Smooth Criminal; Rare Earth Lager; Michael Faricy Stout among others. ABC is the place to try highly innovative beer cocktails such as Wheat on Wheat (Ketel one vodka with mango juice, orgeat syrup and Bangalore Bliss); Chocolate Stout Old Fashioned (Michael Faricy’s Irish Stout, Johnnie Walker Red Label stirred together with chocolate and a hint of chilly; and summer refreshment in the form of 3 Spiced Mules (Pineapple and fresh ginger with Johnnie Walker Red Label served tall with Phat Abbot Tripel). ABC offers a full bar and there is a dance floor for one to dance through the night!

Toit, popular hangout

From night to Toit, it’s a beer walk. Toit in Indiranagar is an out and out brew pub, brewing a revolutionary culture, as they word it. With the promise of some bodacious brews, fabulous foods and a supreme brew pub experience, Toit has gone beyond that. In fact, the revolution has moved to Mumbai and Pune too. Toit claims all their beers are made only with natural ingredients; imported malts, the hippest of hops and the most eukaryotic of yeast, never using any enzymes, chemicals, colouring agents, artificial flavouring or preservatives, “because we want every sip to be nothing short of wholesome, heavenly, beer”. Using the unique and exotic flavours of local fruits, rice, wheat, and spices, this is Toit’s contribution to the world’s great craft beers such as Toit Nitro Stout (a very dark, full-bodied, roasty, malty ale); Toit TinTin (Belgian style fruity ale); Toit India Pale Ale (a bitter, highly hopped, English style ale); Toit Hefeweizen (a full bodied refreshing Bavarian); Toit Basmati Blonde (a light, crisp and refreshing ale, they call it a love child of India’s Basmati rice from which it gets its lightness, colour and floral aroma); and the city’s own Benga-Lager-U (a clean lager with complex maltiness and subtle spicy notes). Said to be one of the most popular brew haunts, it gives a high like no other.

Windmills, energising in a gentle way

Celebrating its decade-young journey in microbrewing is Windmills Craft Works in Whitefield. Known simply as Windmills, it is an upscale pub which has a jazz theatre where artistes from around the world have performed. On tap, they vend Hefeweizen, a Golden Ale, A Stout, 1-2 IPAs and New England IPA. For the tech crowd which makes up its clientele, Windmills offers a ‘boutique’ experience and the techies swear by it, not minding its ‘pricey’ menu. On the terrace, it serves North Indian fare, totally high end offering with a spectacular view of the sprawling tech city.

XOOX Brewmill, its Zooks, ok?

Coming to Koramangala which is peppered with some of the best restaurants and watering holes, there is XOOX Brewmill (don’t know how they came to pronounce it Zooks) which vends artisanal beers and cocktails. Spread across three floors, Zooks, is a live craft brewing space, converted from an old factory. The brewery offers eight styles of craft beers and signature cocktails like the XOOX G&T — a gin, martini bianco, Campari, red wine reduction with grape, apple juice, and tonic water, the C&C (Coffee & Conversation) — gin, black coffee, rose water, orange bitters, ginger ale and The Asian Wife, an interesting cocktail made with vodka, lemongrass syrup, lychee juice, lime juice and lemongrass haze.

BierGarten, so al-fresco

When in Koramangala, check out BierGarten, a sprawling 14,000 sq. ft and an airy, al-fresco seating across two floors. To go with this perfect setting, they’ve got about eight beer variants on tap with traditional German-style Hefeweizen, a dark Dunkel and Amber Lager being the most moving ones. They also have an outlet in Whitefield and a menu that boasts European-style cuisine.

Bier Library, for the ‘beerworm’

From BierGarten, we hop to the Bier Library, which has a beautiful open space and seating with the view of a koi pond located bang in the middle. There’s a cozy reading corner if you want your reading to transport you to another world, yes, of course, drinking the well-crafted beer and that includes a Red Ale, a Spicy Wheat Beer, and a Double IPA. They are also quite well known for their signatures that include Wittle Wit, Ale-O-Drama and Further Lager.

Druid Garden, you will like their potions

Moving to North Bangalore, which is just about seeing some fancy restaurants and pubs coming up, right perched on top is Druid Garden which has a built-in microbrewery that is run by a Chez Brew Master. Naturally, the ingredients are all sourced from Czech Republic and Germany and use recipes that have been tried and tested for years. Since they’ve opened, they’ve introduced 6 beers – Czech Pilsner, Bohemian Dunkel, Indian Pale Ale and a Basmati Lager among others.

District 6, zoned out

From one end of the city, we move to District 6, an upscale microbrewery that offers both fine dining and classic brews. With rustic and modern interiors and a blend of refined fresh German style brews, District 6 is a quaint brewery where you won’t have to shout out while in conversation with your drinking partner, the music just being right, not raucous. The microbrewery offers European, Indian and Chinese cuisine, but the beers are German-style. The brewery features open-air ducts and brewing equipment. True to its number 6, the brewery has a beer tank area; a brewery area; outdoor seating; front kitchen; public and private dining spaces.

Bengaluru is a trend setter and people from all over the world converge here for its cosmopolitan outlook and culture, unmindful of traffic. The city is peppered with so many watering holes, that one tends to forget the potholes, the chaotic traffic and work-related stress. Cheers to ‘namma Bengaluru’

Alcobev Sector enhances customer delight, thanks to Artificial Intelligence

In 2019, Swedish whisky distillery Mackmyra released Intelligens, said to be the ‘world’s first’ whisky created using AI. Mackmyra collaborated with Microsoft and a Finland-based tech company – Fourkind, and using customer feedback data, they created AI algorithms which picked up recipes that were a delight for the end-consumer.

Microsoft, IBM and other tech companies are active in alcobev

Microsoft, IBM and other digital technology players were making significant forays into the alcobev industry. And the big boys of the alcobev industry soon realised how transformative this could be for the industry itself. They had seen the dividends the retail sector was earning and one by one, they started introducing digital technologies in their processes and the going has been good. Microsoft pitched to Danish multinational brewer Carlsberg for the ‘Beer Fingerprinting Project’ and the two used machine learning to good effect. They fed with beer ingredient characteristics to map out and predict beer flavours, shortening the time it takes to develop new beers. Then there was US-based Sugar Creek Brewing Company which tied up with IBM to use AI to improve its beer manufacturing line where there was a monthly beer spillage amounting to $30,000.

Diageo’s ‘What’s Your Whisky’ is so so customer-centric

One of the global leaders in alcoholic beverages, Diageo launched ‘What’s Your Whisky Selector’, an innovative digital experience that has found favor and flavor with many a whisky connoisseur. What did ‘What’s Your Whisky’ do? It simply used AI and ML to analyse customer’s flavour preferences (variety of sweet, fruity, spicy and smoky flavours found in Single Malt whiskies) and recommended a Single Malt whose flavour profile most closely matched the customer’s taste. Customer delight is something no company would want to miss out on. Diageo rolled-out this experience in Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. Ok, it is not available in India which boasts of the largest base of whisky drinkers! Diageo said that intelligent automation is deployed in over 100 applications across its business. “Through predictive analytics, machine leaning and robotics process automation, we are growing more productive and more competitive.”Around the same time, other alcobev behemoths such as Beam Suntory, Bacardi, AB InBev, Pernod Ricard and others had also started putting their money on AI, ML and robotics to enhance manufacturing and operational processes and importantly on introducing a new dimension to customer experience.

A lot is brewing in AB InBev’s Beer Garage

Belgium-based AB InBev has something brewing in its ‘Beer Garage’ wherein machine learning is at play. AB inBev has invested in data-driven solutions to help improve beer brewing on the production side, while on the customer side, it is enhancing its customer engagement programme. The world’s largest beer maker (Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Corona) is using low-cost sensors and machine learning to predict malfunctioning in its brewery, getting to fix it before it happens and thus avoiding huge downtime. Beer Garage is scaling the company’s existing capabilities in AI, ML, Internet of Things, Cloud & data analytics, automation and robotics, and exploring emerging technologies such as Blockchain, AR & VR and others. Innovation at AB InBev drives its commercial strategy, supply chain, and is building sustainable business to improve lives in communities around the world. These technologies are providing the company with unprecedented insight into the needs of its consumers and customers and supporting the growth of the beer category.

Beam Suntory Mexico plant uses drones in agave fields

Beam Suntory, the world’s third largest premium spirits company, deployed drones and AI in its Casa Sauza project. Drones helped the company get an accurate inventory of the agave (Tequila) plants in the fields and to reduce the time it takes to complete the inventory. An AI process is applied to ensure only agave plants, not weeds or any other material, are counted. The inventory data is loaded and tracked in the Sauza Blue Harvest application and later transferred to SAP for SKU tracking. The drone technology is used to manage, monitor and increase crop productivity, and to assist in diagnosing the health and vitality of the agave plants. Beam Suntory is also using digital manufacturing from Rockwell Automation and Cisco to overhaul its business models, improve efficiencies, streamline logistics and update its network. “The future’s promising for Beam’s IT infrastructure and for our networks, and how we can leverage automation and productivity, improving our flavours and our brands. It’s very important to Beam, and I think we’re really moving forward in a good direction,” said Amon Hogue, Senior Network Architect at Beam Suntory.

Pernod Ricard Winemakers gets accurate grape yield

Early this year, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, the premium wine division of Pernod Ricard, took on board Complexica, a leading provider of AI software for supply and demand optimisation. It went live with Complexica’s Decision Cloud software platform in Marlborough, New Zealand in what is Pernod Ricard’s largest global technology project. It plans further go-lives in Australia for finished goods planning and production scheduling, followed by Australian and Church Road winery operations, which forms part of a wider programme of activity to enable the business to utilise technology to work faster, smarter and safer. Pernod Ricard Winemakers also engaged Trellis to support its business and supply chain operations by providing accurate grape yield, quality, harvest timing and procurement cost prediction across Australia and New Zealand.

Bacardi’s cool cocktail-making app

Bacardi this year launched a new cocktail-making app that has helped those who were dishing up new cocktail recipes during the pandemic. The app aims to reimagine the bar setting, besides giving bartenders a platform to showcase their talent. The app launched in the US and UK helped boost consumer confidence in making cocktails at home. Bacardi also signed up EPAM which streamlined the spirits manufacturer’s digital environment by implementing a digital platform for multiple brands including Bacardi rum, Grey Goose vodka, Breezer, Patron Tequila and more. The DevOps automation platform resulted in 16 times greater website development capacity, and a 42% reduction in infrastructure costs.

Digitization in alcobev still nascent

Though deployment of digital technologies is still in its nascent stages in the alcobev sector, there are a number of early adopters who have invested in digital technologies to not only create flavour profiles faster, but also for other functions, including packaging, logistics, marketing and other processes. It is no-brainer that AI has the power to transform the alcobev industry forever, albeit it is happening at a gradual pace. In fact, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of deployment of AI in the alcobev sector as online deliveries became common; home drinking was becoming the norm; and consumers were looking at new recipes. According to US-based FasTrax Solutions, total alcohol sales registered an increase of 25.5% in 2020, driven by digital marketing initiatives with AI at the core. It said in the US beer sales increased by 20.2%; wine by 30.1%; and spirits by 34.1%. Thanks to e-commerce, the sales figures are looking impressive in these difficult times. Also came along the virtual sommelier, guiding consumers on how to buy wine, how to grow vines and how to taste / judge them. In fact, some winemakers have started investing in AI in their vineyards wherein it gives insights into soil management, pest control etc. Experts believe that large vineyards will deploy drones to help growers manage their yield better. Robots will also be at work to improve efficiencies at the vineyard.

Smart factories’ the future

Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, digital transformation and technology services, has said that beverage manufacturing companies plan to build 40% more ‘smart factories’ in the next five years. It estimates that smart factories will contribute between USD 1.5 trillion and 2.2 trillion to the global economy. And what are ‘smart factories’? They are those that leverage digital technologies to gain significant improvements in productivity, quality, flexibility and service. Three key digital technologies enable the smart factor – Connectivity (collecting data from existing equipment and new sensors); Intelligent automation (drones, machine vision etc); and Cloud-scale data management and analytics. The alcobev industry, one of the oldest in the world, though maybe late entrant to the digitization mode, but has soon caught up. From robots to drones to AI to ML, technology is becoming a key driver for not just growth, but a new customer experience. After all, customer experience matters.