Tag Archives: Ambrosia

Anti-counterfeiting Technologies to Stop Fake Alcohol Market

Even as new technologies to prevent fake liquor emerge, there are still many hacks who think of devious ways to push the fake business. This needs to be taken head on.

This November, Haryana reported 20 deaths due to consumption of illicit liquor. On and off, we hear of incidents wherein illicit/fake liquor takes toll of human lives, besides upsetting genuine liquor business. Even as new technologies emerge, there are still many hacks who think of devious ways to push the fake business. That needs to be taken head on.

Counterfeit wines and beverages pose a significant danger, causing a loss of US$3.18 billion in direct sales and costing governments US$2.61 billion in tax revenues, states Vikas Jain, Founder of Acviss Technologies. He states that counterfeiters have been able to pull off frauds that would have looked impossible a decade ago, now with the help of technologies. And by leveraging e-commerce platforms and social media they are able to distribute their products across the world as well.

But what is fake liquor? Fake or illegally produced alcohol is that which is produced in unlicensed distilleries or people’s homes and intended for sale. Production of fake alcohol is more likely to use cheaper versions of alcohol, and contain potentially even more dangerous chemicals, unlike alcohol which primarily uses ethanol. There is no way of knowing for certain the ingredients contained in fake or illegally produced alcohol, there lies the risk of drinking it.

The Food Safety and Standards (Alcoholic Beverages) Regulations, 2018 has in detail listed out what companies need to take care of, including labelling, while manufacturing and selling all kinds of spirits, beer and wine. However, the illicit and fake liquor business in India is thriving and many times with impunity. So, it is for the liquor manufacturing companies to secure their businesses, using technologies, intel and other means.

Fake market growing

Reports indicate that in India alone there were over 6,000 deaths due to poor-quality or fake liquor in the last six years. With the Indian alcohol market growing at a CAGR of 8.8% and it was to reach 16.8 billion litres of consumption by end 2022, the fake market too is growing. As per the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the illicit alcoholic beverage market size in value terms stood at ₹23,466 crores in 2019-20.

As excise comes under the purview of the State and each of the 29 States (Gujarat, Bihar and Nagaland have prohibition) and seven Union Territories have their own ways of regulating liquor trade. There are avenues for fake liquor, interstate smuggling of liquor etc. depending upon where the market is lucrative. The onus lies on the brands to protect their interests as counterfeiting goes beyond the labels, bottle designs and caps.

Counterfeit trade flourishes 

Says Vikas Jain, “Counterfeit beverages are being abundantly available in the market and there doesn’t seem to be an end to it. Fake alcohol products that are produced illegally or use sub-par ingredients and don’t meet security and safety standards. The counterfeit trade has already cost the Indian government a loss of ₹1 trillion in taxes in recent years.”

Common malpractices

Mr. Jain mentions that the most commonly used malpractices in the alcoholic beverage industry include –

Bottle Recycling: Counterfeiters collect empty authentic bottles, refill them with inferior or fake products, and reseal them with counterfeit labels and closures.

Label Forgery: By using high-quality printing techniques and materials, counterfeiters create fake labels that closely resemble authentic branding and design.

Blending and Dilution: One of the most widely practised counterfeit techniques is to mix lower-quality alcohol or water base with small amounts of original ones to create the illusion of authenticity. This leaves the consumers convinced that they have purchased the original product and won’t raise much suspicion.

Implementing a clear and standardised labelling

Asked how brands can protect themselves from counterfeiting, Mr. Jain mentions that the starting point would be implementing clear and standardised labelling with detailed information about the product, including origin, production methods and quality certifications. “One of the best visual identifiers to prevent counterfeiting is to use a highly recognisable and unique bottle shape. This helps the customers to directly identify the brand and verify its authenticity without using another method of authentication. Conduct regular campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of counterfeit alcohol and the importance of purchasing from reputable sources. Work closely with retailers to ensure that they are educated about the risks of counterfeit alcohol and can guide consumers in making informed choices. And obtain and display recognised quality certifications on the product packaging to signal authenticity and adherence to industry standards.”

Incorporating non-replicable labels

Asked about how Acviss helps in combating the counterfeiting menace, Jain stated that “Acviss’s Certify helps to incorporate non-replicable, unique labels into your product or packaging. The best part is that they are tamper-resistant and act as a digital certificate for the products. Customers can easily scan and verify the authenticity of these products and quickly glance through the product and manufacturer information.

Acviss’s Origin tracks your product through each stage of its lifecycle, from the manufacturer to distributor and the end consumer. This helps to learn the behaviour of the supply chain, increasing the visibility and locating the vulnerable points.”

Long run benefits

On the issue of anti-counterfeit solutions being expensive, Mr. Jain mentioned, “Yes, most companies see anti-counterfeit solutions as an unnecessary cost. But, frankly, anti-counterfeit solutions are an investment that can benefit the brand in the long term run. Not just to recover the profits, but also to retain customer trust and reach out to new audiences. The plus side with Acviss is, that our solutions can be customised according to the requirements of the brand which is more effective than a one-size-fits-all solution.”

To deal with this menace, brands have to think on different levels. “As technology is getting more and more advanced, counterfeiters are also finding new ways to bypass the existing preventive measures. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the anti-counterfeit solutions are meaningless. If we take Acviss as an example, we have been constantly evolving and innovating new technologies to keep up with changing environments. We have also been able to surpass the existing measures and create groundbreaking inventions in the brand protection field lately by leveraging the AI and ML technologies.”

Mr. Chander S Jeena, Associate Director of the Authentication Solution Providers’ Association (ASPA) said, “The answer lies in the upgradation of current technologies, systems, and regulations to ensure end-to-end secure supply chain. For example, to prevent tampering, refilling, and ensure revenue protection, the tax stamps (excise adhesive label) must be enhanced with new generations’ overt (visible) and covert (hidden) security features to facilitate easy identification by important stakeholders in the supply chain. Further, there is a need for solutions to safeguard the movement of liquor supply. Many States are using geo-tagged ‘digital locks’ for liquor-carrying tankers, with GPS-based tracking services to track in transit consignments through distilleries, bottlers, company-owned bonded warehouses, and transporters. Widespread use of these solutions across the country can bring a drastic change in just a few years.”  

VINEXPO Delhi 2023 – All set to Roll

Keep an eye out for European Wines with Sommelier Devati Mallick

The stage is all set for VINEXPO Delhi 2023 to get underway tomorrow. While there is much to look forward to for the visitors, with many foreign producers gracing the event, the European Union (EU), located at Booth F50 in Hall 1B is expected to have a strong showing as the Region of Honour. The fair will be held from 7th– 9th December, 2023.

European wines, beers and spirits are more than alcoholic beverages, thanks to exceptional raw materials, timeless craftsmanship and unwavering safety standards. Europe is the birthplace of the world’s wine industry, and traditions of winemaking are proudly passed from generation to generation; they have defined European rural landscapes for centuries. Nowadays, the EU accounts for 45% of world’s wine-growing areas, 65% of wine production, 57% of global wine consumption and 70% of exports, making it the world leader in each of these categories.

A tradition of quality and excellence

More than 1700 European wines have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) protections, serving as a guarantee of their authenticity and quality.  The consumers can enjoy these products in the knowledge that they have been produced to the highest quality and safety standard. Whatever your preference, you will find something to delight you among the wines of Europe. Red, white, rosé or sparkling wines from Europe can help make any occasion special.

European Union: The Region of Honour at SIAL and VINEXPO in New Delhi

What makes this year’s VINEXPO particularly noteworthy is the presence of over 50 company representatives, including 14representing wines and spirits sector, facilitating B2B matchmaking sessions on December 7 and 8. These sessions offer invaluable opportunities for Indian buyers, retailers, and distributors to connect with European businesses across various food and drink sectors

Moreover, the European Union’s VINEXPO booth will host a series of enlightening masterclasses on wines, beers and spirits. Each Masterclass, lasting 30 minutes, will feature a selection of beverages for tasting. Among these, the EU Masterclasses, led by renowned sommelier Devati Mallick, promises to be a highlight. As you sip and savour the wines, you’ll embark on a journey through Europe’s finest vineyards, guided by the expertise of a true connoisseur.

As we gear up for VINEXPO Delhi 2023, we invite you to join us in celebrating the union of tradition and innovation in European winemaking. Stay tuned for an unforgettable wine experience that promises to captivate your senses and leave you with a deeper appreciation for the world of wine.

Let’s raise our glasses to VINEXPO Delhi 2023, where European wines and spirit drinks will take center stage, and the EU’s commitment to vinicultural excellence, along with the expertise of Devati Mallick, will shine brighter than ever before.

The EU’s participation in SIAL and VINEXPO 2023 is part of its ‘More than Food’ campaign, actively promoting outstanding European agricultural products on a global stage. For the latest information and updates, visit the official ‘More than Food India‘ webpage.

For media inquiries, please contact: sial2023@agripromotion.eu

Taxation The Bugbear of Alcobev Industry

To infuse moderation India, EU, UK and the US have used taxation as a tool. But other reasons
also encourage moderation. A report.

The domestic alcohol beverages (alcobev) industry is expected to have revenue growth of 8-10% in 2023-24 but operating margins may contract by 90-140 basis points due to input cost pressure, a report by rating agency ICRA stated.

The alcobev industry witnessed a strong revival in the last fiscal in FY23 led by a healthy demand across both segments – spirits and beer, after two consecutive pandemic-hit years of FY21 and FY22 “During Q1 FY2024, the spirits industry reported a 13% YoY increase in revenues despite being the lean season for the segment, while the beer industry, despite being the peak season, “Moreover, the majority of the ongoing capacity addition is attributed towards beer manufacturing, which is expected to come up in the near to medium term with some players looking to expand to new states and deepen penetration in the existing regions.

“ICRA expects the industry to continue to demonstrate stable and healthy credit metrics supported by strong cash flow generation and limited debt addition,” it said. India is also poised to make strong spirits gains thanks to its booming economy; rising consumer incomes; market recovery and growth post-pandemic; and strong consumer confidence. However taxes play an important role in determining the prices of alcohol.

In spite of GST on alcohol not being levied, the prices of liquor continue to rise after the rollout of Goods and Services Tax. This is because the inputs used to manufacture liquor were taxed at 12-15% under the VAT regime before GST. However, after the introduction of GST, most of the input raw material now attract 18% GST resulting in increased input cost. This rise in taxes on the inputs is passed on to the end customers. The other reason for the sharp increase in the cost of liquor is the applicability of GST on transportation and freight charges. Previously, transportation and freight attracted a service tax of around 15%. However, post-GST, they are taxed at 18%. Hence, even with no major changes in the VAT rates charged on beer or liquor, the cost of beer and liquor increased due to the increase in input taxes.

Industry Analysis

The liquor industry isn’t much supportive of the government’s decision to charge no GST on alcohol. Exempting liquor from GST has led to a rise in the overall cost due to the increased taxes on the inputs. Further, as the output is a tax-exempt product for the manufacturers they need to pay input taxes on inputs and then claim the refund of ITC (input tax credit) accumulated. This is a long process, which leads to the lengthening of the working capital cycle. Most of the liquor manufacturers believe that there’s no point in excluding beer from the purview of GST as the alcohol content by volume is only 5%. Most of the industry insiders wish that beer is brought under the GST regime. This will have a remarkable impact on the flourishing tourism industry.

EU law requires every EU country to levy an excise duty on beer of at least €1.87 per 100 litres (26.4 gal) and degree of alcohol content. That amounts to a minimum tax of €0.03 ($0.03) for a 330ml (11.2 oz) beer bottle with 5% alcohol content.

After a decade of cuts and freezes to the alcohol duty in Britain, in August the level of duty will rise with inflation – an international best practice and World Health Organization recommendation.

With the new alcohol duty system alcohol tax rates will lower the cost of beer for pub-goers and will raise the cost of most other alcoholic beverages in supermarkets and other off-licenses.

In recent decades, alcohol had been getting ever cheaper, fuelling a public health crisis. In the UK, the alcohol duty is a type of tax paid by companies that produce alcohol. It is paid by the company who produces or imports the alcoholic drinks. The tax level relates to the strength and size of the product, rather than its sale price. The level of duty is decided each year in the Government Budget.

On August 1, 2023 the alcohol duty change has come into effect in the UK. It makes duty across different types of alcohol more consistent by taxing based on alcoholic strength by volume (ABV).

In the past the UK tax system has been complicated and inconsistent, with different rules for different alcoholic products. The new system is much closer to international standards in alcohol tax policy and contains elements of World Health Organization (WHO) best practices.

Evidence from across the world shows that alcohol harm falls when the population levels of alcohol consumption fall. When alcohol is less affordable, less is consumed, and so there are fewer deaths, injuries and illnesses caused by alcohol.

Alcohol harm disproportionately affects people on lower incomes and in greater deprivation, even though evidence shows these groups consume less alcohol than higher income groups.

The impact of alcohol on communities and health is also unequal across the UK. People living in the poorest areas of the country are more likely to experience illnesses due to alcohol, and a greater proportion of the population in deprived areas die due to alcohol.

Taxing alcohol by volume (ABV) targets strong alcoholic drinks, which are particularly harmful. Increasing the price of alcohol could be viewed as ‘regressive’ policy (if alcoholic products are more expensive this affects those with less money more). However, on average, people with less money tend to consume less alcohol than those with more disposable income. At the same time, the health costs and mortality from alcohol are higher among lower income communities and people.

A recent study showed thousands of deaths could be averted through lowering alcohol strength in beer, wine and spirits – something the new alcohol duty system is likely to facilitate.

Finland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland levy the highest excise duties on beer. Finland levies a tax of €0.63 ($0.66) per 330ml beer bottle, followed by the United Kingdom at €0.37 ($0.40) and Ireland at €0.37 ($0.39) per beer.

Bulgaria, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain each levy approximately the EU’s minimum rate of €0.03 ($0.03) per beer bottle.

The EU’s wide range of tax rates spans the range of global tax rates on beer. Finland is a high tax outlier within the EU, but its tax rate is only slightly more than half of Israel’s tax rate on beer. Conversely, Germany has the lowest tax rate on beer of any country in the OECD. Tax rates across the EU are generally higher than rates in the U.S. The minimum EU beer tax of $0.03 per 11.2 oz bottle exceeds the tax rate of the median U.S. state (Virginia at $0.02 per 11.2 oz bottle).

All European countries covered also levy a value-added tax (VAT) on beer, which is charged on the sales value of a beer bottle.

Moderation increasingly driven by economic concerns

Previously driven mostly by health and wellness concerns, moderation in alcohol consumption is now increasingly being spurred by economic worries and a need to cut household spending. Consumers are choosing to cut down rather than down-trade in many markets.

Moderation – both as a lifestyle choice for health and wellness, as well as an economising strategy amidst rising inflation – is taking a number of forms, such as:

• Reducing the number of occasions during which alcohol is consumed, either by substituting with a non-alcoholic beverage, such as a soft drink, or by simply exiting the consumption occasion (such as skipping the mid-week after-work drinks).

• Reducing the number of alcoholic drinks on a given occasion, for example, by drinking less, or in some cases, by combining consumption of a full-strength alcoholic beverage with a no- or low-alcohol beverage during the same occasion.

About half of all adult drinkers of beverage alcohol surveyed as part of IWSR’s price sensitivity study across 17 focus markets in H2 2022, expressed interest in moderating their alcohol consumption. The trend is particularly strong in European markets where economic confidence is low, such as the UK and Germany.

The long-established trend of moderation as a health and wellness choice continues, especially amongst those on higher incomes in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, and China. Germany remains the largest market for no- and low-alcohol products, however smaller markets, such as the US, Canada and Australia, will show more dynamic growth, with volume CAGRs 2022-2026 outpacing that of Germany.

For some consumer segments, such as millennials in select markets, previous interest in no- and low-alcohol products due to wellness concerns has now been combined with an economic imperative, amplifying the trend.

Delhi Government to grant license for wholesale vends

The Delhi Government has decided to grant license in form L1, L1F and L2 for the wholesale vend of Indian liquor in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi for the licensing year 2023-24 with effect from October 1, 2023.

The Excise Department has said that the prescribed forms can be obtained from its website and that there would be a processing fee of Rs. 5,000 for each license. The Department said that the terms and conditions for the licensing 2023-24 would be the same as that of 2022-23. The government said that it reserved the right to review the duties / fees to be paid / payable in case of any amendment to the law related to liquor and bonded warehouses.

The Department said that in case of existing licensees / registered brands active up to September 30, 2023 there is no change in the EDP / right structure / label / source warehouse etc. The registered brands for the year 2022-23 may be registered for 2023-24 on the same terms and conditions of the previous year, consequent to the payment of requisite fees and submission of undertaking / affidavit of the same.

It said that for new registration of brands applications received without complete information and supporting documents as required in the prescribed form along with annexures shall be liable to be rejected.

These changes are to ensure continuity of supply and the amendments will be in place till the new policy is formed. This will be third time the Delhi Government is giving the extension.

It may be mentioned here that the previous policy introduced in 2021 by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had to be scrapped as it ended up in scandal which is currently under investigation.

The excise department has proposed to extend the existing 2020-21 liquor policy by six months till March 31, 2024, to ensure the continuity of liquor supply. The excise department will issue a formal order in this regard.

Expert welcomes policy

Mr. Raju Vaziraney, one of the veterans of the wine and spirits sector and presently Adviser and Business Development Head of Amrut Distilleries, has welcomed the policy saying technically it is a new policy thereby allowing new companies to get registered and pay one-time fees and not fees from retrospective effect. The Companies will be encouraged to bring – in new brands, thus ensure more variety of brands, more consumer choice. However, he said the new policy gave only two days for companies to submit all documents.

However, he reiterated that the salient features are a) Existing Licences to be renewed by giving an undertaking / affidavit; Existing licences are renewed till March 31, 2024; Existing brands with existing EDPs to continue till March 31, 2024; Existing brands to pay proportionate fees of six months and not  18 months as was the practise in the policy of 2022-23.

In order to ensure continuity of supplies the online transparent system worked overnight & supplies commenced from October 3, 2023. However in view of paucity of time lot of prominent brands are under process of being made available. Mr. Vaziraney said that however, the challenges are that Delhi will have to wait till six more months to get a full-term year policy with possible participation of private trade thereby offering a great buying experience. The vends at the airport could also open next year as presently a world class city like Delhi does not have any vends at the airports

It is expected that Delhi will have a full year policy which will bring-in consumer choice brands and also bring – in reforms in terms of more liquor stores, more in trade outlets, he added.

IWSR appoints Julie Harris as CEO

IWSR Drinks Market Analysis has announced the appointment of Julie Harris as its new CEO. The transition comes following Mark Meek’s decision to step back from the CEO role and to take up a non-executive director position within the company, the world’s leading source of data and intelligence for the $1.5 trillion global alcoholic beverage market.

Julie Harris joins from Comparison Technologies, a leading tech-enabled comparison and customer acquisition platform in the home digital services market, where she was CEO since 2019. Prior to this, Julie held several CEO roles across a number of sectors, including WGSN, the global leader in trend forecasting for the fashion and retail industry.

Julie Harris commented, “I am delighted to be joining the very talented team at IWSR at such an exciting stage in its evolution and to build on the phenomenal growth of the last few years. Mark leaves the company in fantastic shape and I look forward to working with our global teams to continue to develop new and exciting products for our valued clients.”

Under Mark Meek’s leadership, IWSR has delivered annual revenue growth of 20% and has significantly expanded the coverage and functionality of its core database. The company has also developed a range of new products, including annual strategic consumer sentiment studies on topical issues such as e-commerce, no-and-low alcohol drinks and the impact of Covid-19. In conjunction with its strong organic growth, IWSR has also completed the acquisition of Wine Intelligence France, broadening its coverage of the wine sector.

Julian Masters, managing partner at Bowmark Capital, leading private equity investor and IWSR majority shareholder, commented, “Mark has been both a great leader of IWSR and partner to Bowmark, driving transformational change during his tenure as CEO. We thank him for his significant contribution to the company’s success and are delighted that we will be continuing to work together in his new role. We look forward to working closely with Julie Harris on delivering IWSR’s next phase of growth and continued product development.”

Mark Meek said, “I’m incredibly proud of what the IWSR team has accomplished, with the support of Bowmark, since the management transitioned from our founder. The business has grown strongly, and we’ve considerably enlarged our talent base and product range. The future continues to look bright. So now, after nearly 10 years, I believe it is a great moment to hand over the reins of the business to the talented Julie Harris. I look forward to being part of the IWSR story as a non-executive and will give Julie all my support to ease her into the new role.”

Two Indies Rum Review

The rum market is experiencing significant growth, but have you ever tried rum made from jiggery? In this article, we will delve into a review of Two Indies Rum, crafted by Amrut Distilleries, the renowned Indian whisky maker known for putting Indian whiskies on the global stage. Interestingly, Amrut doesn’t just produce Two Indies Rum; they also offer another exceptional rum called Old Port Deluxe Matured Rum. However, our focus today is solely on Two Indies Rum, especially as the winter season approaches, making it the ideal time to explore quality rums. This spirit is priced at ₹1,700 in Mumbai, ₹2,200 in Bangalore, and a wallet-friendly ₹850 in Goa. Furthermore, it’s readily available in numerous states.

Why the name?

The Two Indies Rum was actually conceptualised by the now late CMD Shri Neelakanta Rao Jagdale, wherein he was keen to bring a fusion of two rums, a concept that Amrut has also brought to its whiskey’s. The rum is a tribute to India, its farmers and also to the West Indies, which is where Rum originated from. And because this is blended with matured rums that come from these two countries, it got its name ‘Two Indies Rum’. This rum has won a few international awards and also won the Ambrosia Award for the best premium rum in 2021.

Blend

This rum has an interesting and unique story when it comes to its blend. It uses Caribbean rum, specifically from Jamaica, Barbados, and Guyana, which are sent to the Amrut distillery unit in Kambipura, Bangalore where it is mixed and blended with Indian rum, aged about 3 years or less. Also this is made from ‘jaggery’. This approach is pretty different from most manufacturers making rum. For instance, you have rums that are made from molasses, which is used in this also btw. Then you have rum made from cane juices, which is a popular concept. But jaggery is used in making most Indian sweets. So in this case that is the unique blend, which might make this sweet and perhaps this is the only rum in the world that is made out of jaggery.

The Spirit is distilled in both pot and column spirit stills such that the natural congeners of molasses are retained and then skilfully blended after maturation in select oak wood barrels that give a dash of sweetish oakiness on the palate. The rum is made by blending it with molasses ENA and no artificial flavouring has been added, although the bottle says that permitted colours are.

Packaging

It’s a nice looking bottle, at first glance the bottle actually reminds me of the Gianchand Indian Single Malt, of course Two Indies Rum was launched before that. This is also its new packaging and new avatar, which came in 2020. Earlier this use to come in a different bottle. This is a rum like bottle and the words Rhum-Ron are written since the Caribbean’s has the influence of both French as well as Spanish former colonies. It has 42.8% ABV and the bottle is nice and sleek.

Nosing

Coming to the nosing, you’ll notice a sweet scent, and it’s pretty strong at 42.8% alcohol. There’s also a hint of nuttiness in the background, but you might need to take a closer sniff to pick it up because the overall dominant aroma is sweetness with some spice notes.

Tasting

The rum has a nice taste – it’s not too mild or too strong. It’s just right, and it gives you a nice kick of flavour without being too much strong. When you sip it, the taste sticks around, and you can feel a bit of spiciness in your mouth. At first, you might notice a bit of banana flavour, kind of like when you eat the skin of a banana. It also makes your throat feel a little dry, which means it’s a dry drink. There’s also a tiny hint of saltiness, like the taste of nuts with a pinch of salt, but it’s not too strong. One cool thing about this drink is that it starts with a bit of sweetness from the wood it’s made from, like oak. The sweetness starts small and then gets spicier, so it changes as you sip it, and that’s what makes it interesting.

Conclusion

What do we think about Two Indies Rum? Well, let’s talk about rum and how people feel about it. Just like with whiskey or vodka, many people usually have their favourite brands. Some people prefer Old Monk, while others like a stronger taste, especially in the winter. But Two Indies Rum is a bit different. It’s like those fancy single malt whiskeys – it’s an acquired taste. It might not be the rum for everyone, especially if you’re used to regular, mass-produced rums. But if you’re a rum enthusiast and appreciate high-quality products, you should definitely give Two Indies a try.

Ron De Ugar Handcrafted Rum Review

The Ron De Ugar Rum comes from Ugar Sugars Works Ltd who have been in the Sugar business for about 75 years. And as you know that manufacturing ENA is a natural extension of being in this business and in line with that Ugar Sugar also has a portfolio of spirit products in the market. This is their first rum product and is priced at Rs. 1300 in Goa for a 750 ml bottle. The rum features a 42.8% ABV and is currently only available in Goa and Karnataka, with plans to launch it soon in others states as well.

Why the Name?

It is common to believe if this rum is from India? The name suggests that it might be an international product and honestly I also thought for it to be one at first glance. But this is a 100% Indian handcrafted Rum and it is manufactured in the Ugar Khurd region, which is a small hamlet in the erstwhile princely state of Sangli in the West of India, on the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The region is a sugar manufacturing-focused township with large areas under sugarcane cultivation, which is where the distillery is based and also of course this rum is also made there. And since this comes from the Ugar region, its named after it, the ‘Ron de’ has been added to give it some flair of course. 

Apart from the name there are few other interesting things about this Rum, and the most important is that this is made from cane spirits and not molasses. Most of the rums that you find in India are made from Molases, whisky’s also in fact. Much like Camicara Rum, which is also a small batch rum made from cane spirit, Ron De Ugar is mixed with mature 3-5 year rums and cane spirit.

Another interesting thing about this rum is the moniker on the rum. When you look at him it seems like an international figure, but this is actually Shivaji’s Naval Commander, Kanoji Angre, who use to monitor that belt and is also known as askilled navy chief hence used here. 

Kanoji Angre features as the moniker on the label

How is it made?

So, how exactly is this rum produced? The aged rums are combined with cane spirits and left to mature gradually in Oakwood casks. Afterward, they’re mixed with fragrant spices to create a unique flavour. This rum is crafted and bottled at the Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. in Ugar Khurd, located in the Belagavi district of Karnataka.

The Rum is matured in Oakwood Cask

Packaging:

Similar to many other rums available in this segment, it comes in a canister. A marron base colour along with gold letterings make it look good and the canister also has some night texture with the picture of the Naval Commander Kanoji Angre on it. The shape of the bottle is similar to that if Monkey Shoulder whisky somewhat.

The bottle looks like Monkey Shoulder Whisky

Nosing:

With an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 42.8%, this rum is undoubtedly smooth while nosing. Its sweetness carries note reminiscent of vanilla, which is evident from the aroma it imparts. There’s a distinct and clear vanilla scent. While there’s not much spiciness, the scent is deep and intense. Taking a whiff of this rum can also provide a pleasant sensation, gently expanding one’s nostrils.

Tasting:

Talking about the taste, as expected, it’s smooth. When the spirit enters the mouth, it feels refined, smooth and also warm. The spiciness hits you slightly late just as the vanilla sweetness fades away. There’s a lingering texture on the palate, offering a warm and comfortable feeling. Interestingly, although the spiciness isn’t obvious at first sip, it becomes evident shortly after. The spiciness is balanced and not overwhelming, providing a relaxed experience. The finish is prolonged, felt at the back of the throat, and carries a warm sensation with a subtle hint of spice. Despite the enticing aroma of vanilla and sweetness, these flavours don’t translate as strongly onto the palate. For a rum with a 42.8% ABVit goes down smoothly.

Conclusion:

Priced at ₹1300, this rum certainly falls into the premium category. It’s important to note that this isn’t a budget-friendly option, especially when considering potential higher costs in other states. But the makers are very clear that this is meant to be a handcrafted small batch rum. While the rum is good I would’ve been happier if it would’ve been priced at around Rs. 900 – 1000, it would’ve flown off the shelves then. But overall you must try this for sure, atleast once.

The House of Suntory celebrates 100 Years of Pioneering Japanese Spirit

  • The Founding House of Japanese Whisky partners with film icons Sofia Coppola and Keanu Reeves
  • Introduces new limited-edition whiskies to toast its centennial

The House of Suntory, the Founding House of Japanese Whisky, celebrates its 100th anniversary of whisky innovation: a major milestone not only for Suntory’s history but for Japanese spirits culture. In honour of this centennial, the House releases a Suntory Anniversary Tribute as imagined by Academy Award-winning director Sofia Coppola and starring actor Keanu Reeves, as well as exclusive 100th anniversary editions of its world-renowned whiskies.

Twenty years after filming Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola returned to Japan to create the Suntory Anniversary Tribute. Coppola brings her artistic genius and admiration for Suntory Whisky to life as the creative director of The Tribute that honours Suntory’s illustrious past, present and future. The Suntory Anniversary Tribute tells the remarkable story of the brand’s heritage and whisky-making legacy over the last 100 years, depicting the meaning of “Suntory Time” through the eyes of its creator. It features actor Keanu Reeves, a lover of Suntory Whisky and who previously appeared in a Suntory Reserve ad campaign in 1992, debuted yesterday during the Suntory Time 100th Anniversary Global Premiere event in New York City.

“As the pioneer of Japanese whisky, the House of Suntory played a significant role in shaping culture and leading craftsmanship in Japan over the last century,” said Jon Potter, Managing Director of House of Suntory. “To mark this historic milestone, partnering with Sofia and Keanu, who are Suntory Whisky fans, makes perfect sense. From our Fifth Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo’s striking blends to Sofia and Keanu’s unique cinematic creations, this commemoration has surpassed all expectations to celebrate our iconic Japanese whiskies.”

Later this summer, Reeves will star in another creative project in partnership with the House of Suntory: a series of documentary shorts from filmmaker Roman Coppola titled: “The Nature and Spirit of Japan.” The series explores Japanese whisky culture inspired by harmony with nature (Wa), elevated by Japanese craftsmanship (Monozukuri) and enjoyed as an authentic Japanese cultural experience (Omotenashi). The docuseries will strike a balance between education and entertainment, aiming to foster a deeper exploration of the House of Suntory and Japanese culture overall.

“I’m honored to partner with Suntory Whisky again thirty years after our Suntory Reserve campaign,” said Keanu Reeves. “I’m a huge fan of Suntory Whisky, so it’s very special to collaborate in honour of this milestone anniversary. My admiration for the whisky goes beyond tasting the whisky. It is the elevated Japanese craftsmanship and attention to every detail that makes Suntory Whisky so special. As an actor honing and perfecting my own craft, sharing this process in a docuseries is a thrill.”

In honour of the centennial, the House of Suntory is releasing several limited-edition whiskies that highlight the unique Japanese craftsmanship at Suntory’s whisky distilleries and their meticulous art of blending, including Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara and Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt whiskies. Limited 100th anniversary labels of the flagship Yamazaki 12-Year-Old and Hakushu 12-Year-Old will also be released for the centennial.

“Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies are gifts from our past handed down by generations,” said Fifth Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo. “It is fitting to release limited editions as part of this incredible milestone, as they represent our relentless pursuit of quality and symbolise our promise to carry our philosophy on for the next one hundred years and beyond.”

The centennial of the House of Suntory began with the establishment of its Yamazaki Distillery in 1923 – the first and oldest malt whisky distillery in Japan’s history. The House of Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii’s 100-year legacy began with a dream to “create an original Japanese whisky blessed with the riches of Japanese nature and craftsmanship,” which his grandson Shingo Torii carries forth today at Yamazaki and its distilleries across the country. Since its founding, the House of Suntory has been crafting world-class spirits and is known for Yamazaki, Hakushu, Chita, Kakubin, Hibiki, Suntory Whisky Toki and Ao, as well as Roku Gin and Haku Vodka.

This landmark anniversary is a significant milestone for House of Suntory and for its home country of Japan. As a first step toward its promising future, the House of Suntory is investing 10 billion JPY ($77 million USD) to enhance its Yamazaki and Hakushu Distilleries which are currently closed for renovation and scheduled to reopen this fall. The House of Suntory has become synonymous with some of the best Japanese whiskies in the world today, and it has undoubtedly built a legacy worthy of celebration.

The House of Suntory has invited fans to join its new global membership programme. Members will be among the first to hear about House of Suntory new releases, receive priority consideration for invitations to consumer experiences, learn news from the distilleries, gain early access to content and more. The House of Suntory membership programme aims to bring Japanese whisky enthusiasts together around the world and provide a cultural journey through Japan.

The Rise of Craft Beer and a Burgeoning Microbrewery Segment in India

Recent years have seen the rise of craft beer, a new crop of premium beer produced in small batches by independent producers. There are now strong indications that the growing demand for craft beer is paving the way for new microbreweries in India.

The beer industry in India has emerged in the last two decades to become a thriving money spinner today. Just a few decades ago, it wasn’t commonplace to find modern bars, restobars, lounges, and even friends sitting over a few beers. Today, there’s a new culture of brewing in India, even among millennials and Gen Zs, and beer has become trendy. As of 2022, the beer market was valued at 383.6 billion, growing at a CAGR of 8.1%, and expected to reach 622.4 billion by 2028.

Recent years have also seen the rise of craft beer, a new crop of premium beer produced in small batches by independent producers, with an emphasis on new and evolving flavours, enthusiasm, and techniques. There are now strong indications that the growing demand for craft beer is paving the way for microbreweries in India. Some industry players believe this is only the start of a journey that can transform the beer scene much more significantly.

Craft beer flexibility and a burgeoning segment

There’s a growing crop of craft beer producers and brands in India who seem determined to take over the beer market with what they call a breath of fresh air. “Being true to style and ingredients, the experience that craft beer provides in terms of flavour, aroma and array of styles has led to the growth of craft beer the world over. We often say that once one has tasted true craft, he’ll never go back to industrial lager, especially if craft is available within reach.

“This is the reason that the world and, indeed, India are seeing the growth of microbreweries. Industrial lager literally offers one-style-fits-all products, whereas craft gives the choice back to the consumer for its preferred taste profile and styles,” said Upesh Gulati, Founder, Strategist, and Master Brewer, Effingut Breweries Pvt Ltd.

Over the years, Effingut has taken pride in introducing patrons to various different styles from around the world. With 16 different craft beers on tap, there is a flavour for each and every patron to enjoy. As of today, Effingut has a pan-India presence with three different verticals across four cities that cater to any kind of patron. This includes the Effingut 2 Go boutique stores, Effingut Bistros, and The Effingut Brewpubs and Taprooms.

Rather than release large batches of single-flavour, often mundane beers, microbreweries offer a variety of tastes and flavours based on the changing preferences of consumers and innovativeness of producers. As more adventurous beer enthusiasts emerge, craft beer makers have to continually innovate and expand to meet growing demands. According to Dr. Nishant Grover, Brew Master at Hotel The Royal Plaza, craft beer has quickly become a trend in India.

“There are several factors responsible for the growth of microbreweries in India. First is the shifting consumer tastes and the desire for distinctive and expensive beverages, as well as the fact that they are becoming more daring and discriminatory in their taste preferences. Second, increasing disposable income has also contributed to the growth of microbreweries, and lastly, we must acknowledge the encouraging government policies that are making microbreweries like our own The Royal Brewery Bistro to thrive,” he says.

Creating richer experiences with richer flavours

Microbreweries like The Royal Brewery Bistro are also being fostered by the craze for the culture by both local and international tourists and beer enthusiasts. This contributes to the overall tourism sector in India. Beyond that, the most important changes are the ones seen in the lives of budding beer drinkers in India. Younger Indians are becoming adventurous and seek out newer tastes each new day.

“After a long hectic day at work, people would stop by a bar to relax with a mug of their favourite beer in hand. But now with changing demographics, millennials and Gen Zs, people’s taste for beer is also undergoing a shift. They are looking for something different to explore and experiment including their consumption of alcoholic beverages. It was only 20 years ago that the first breweries opened in the industrial city of Gurugram. Today, there are microbreweries spurring across the country. Well-known internationally trained brewers are brewing international quality beer recipes in new-world pubs and bars across the country.  As the best quality raw material is available with ease, production becomes less hassle, this is why craft beer availability is spreading across the country. Multiple yearly events on brewing and brewing equipment have also propelled information sharing and technical know-how for the industry,” explains Sandeep Singh Katiyar, CEO of The Finch, one of the finest premium luxury lounges in India, known for its extensive range of freshly brewed craft beer.

Breaking the odds, surging ahead

There’s still a long way to go. The craft beer culture may be growing in popularity, but it is still relatively young in India. Brewing has certainly become easier because quality ingredients are easier to come by and the manufacturing process has been simplified. However, there’s a long path ahead, and it is rough and rocky. There’s need for both the central and state governments to support the segment and its operators for them to thrive even better and ensure the growth is smooth.

As Katiyar of The Finch puts it, “The new brewery policies in Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh have helped craft beer businesses scale to new heights. However, craft beer and microbreweries yet have a long path to cover and have plenty of hindrances to cross in the upcoming years. The industry requires care, support, and nurture from the state and central governments. With the government’s support, the smooth growth of microbreweries can be ensured.”

The idea of authenticity loved by millennials is what is spurring the growth in the industry, and there’s need to support the over 200 microbreweries in India to succeed, while also ensuring new ones emerge, especially in far-flung cities and towns where they’re currently non-existent.

“It’s no secret millennials live life differently. Things no longer matter. Experiences do. Indeed, the potential rise of craft beer has paved way for many microbreweries in India. Millennials are clearly choosing experiences over things, fuelling the homecoming of microbreweries. They now know that there is much to the world of beer than just the dull and mass-produced bottled hard liquor. With hints of chocolate or sweet caramel, floral hops or fruity notes, rich coffee undercurrents and more – the options are tempting and endless. Today, India is now growing its own craft culture one sip at a time, and it will get even better in the future,” notes Anirudh Khanna Managing Director, Independence Brewing Company.  

Innovations in Packaging, Adding to the Consumer Experience

The total sales of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) products were 388 million cases in 2022, up from 305 million cases in the previous year with demand in all major segments like rum, gin, vodka, whisky and brandy rising. The rise has been the sharpest in premium products with their portfolio now accounting for a fifth of all the whisky sold in India and consequently demand for glass bottles and packaging material has shot up.

The bottling and packaging segment is a key component and along with ENA it accounts for over 65% of raw material costs for IMFL operators, who have been requesting price increases from the respective state governments, to offset high input costs.

While excise departments have their own yardsticks to concede price rise, the alcobev industry has to think of ways of bringing down raw material costs. One of the ways is to push their supply partners to go for innovations in glass bottling and packaging. Already, we are seeing a number of new packaging and bottling solutions such as bag-in-box, ceramic glass bottles, bag-intube, whiskey pouches and more. But the premium segment cannot do away with glass bottles as glass has its own charm. Design comes in play here.

All in all, the market of the glass bottle and packaging industry is expected to grow phenomenally, even as some companies are giving up mono-cartons. Extensive R&D to introduce biodegradable and sustainable packaging materials due to rising environmental concerns are fast gaining currency and companies are becoming increasingly environmentally sustainable entities. 

Value creation without cutting corners

In view of its importance, Ambrosia at its 2023 Indspirit Conference in Delhi, organised a session on ‘Innovations in Packaging for value creation: cut cost without cutting corners’. The panellists included Srinivas Mantri, Sr Procurement Manager, Beam Suntory India; Vinod Sharma, Assistant Vice President (Commercial) Alcobrew. The session was moderated by Bhavya Desai, Group Head & CEO, SAP Media Worldwide Ltd. who set the tone by stating that in a competitive environment, the alcobev sector had to come up with bottling and packaging innovations for enhancing customer experience. 

Abnormal increase in alcobev sales

Mr. Vinod Sharma said that in the last one and a half years, there has been an abnormal increase in alcohol sales and companies need to religiously work on cutting costs in a highly competitive world, without compromising on quality. The alcobev sector is banking on innovation of reducing weight of glass bottle while ensuring that it is not susceptible to breakages. 

He mentioned that in the last two to three years there have been several innovations / techniques in bottling and packaging. One is the NNPB (Narrow neck press and blow) technique which can reduce weight of glass bottle up to 10 to 12%. However, over 90% of glass manufacturers in India have not adopted this technology due to initial investment costs. There is no substitute for glass bottle, particularly with premiumisation gaining currency, however glass manufacturers in India do not have adequate infrastructure to make bottles the way some foreign companies do. 

Smart caps becoming smarter

The other areas the industry could look at includes smart caps with multiple options now with HDPE and metal combinations. “Smart cap is becoming smarter by the day.” Similarly, shipper cartons there are so many different varieties of material. 

Sustainability should be key

Bhavya Desai nudged the panellists to talk about sustainability in packaging and Prof. K. Munshi, former IIT faculty, said while cost cutting is a factor by reducing bottle weight, making it compact etc., the sector should emphasise on value addition and how the consumer is benefitted. He gave a Japanese example where a manufacturer was dispensing Sake in small glasses which could be reused. “Sustainability also means next use of the product.” Most of the packaging is now thrown in to the garbage, he said and urged the industry to ‘put their minds together’ on sustainable packaging. 

Innovation officers in companies

Prof. Munshi said presently the onus on cost reduction is on the bottle manufacturer which cannot happen due to reasons best known for the manufacturer. Hence, there is need for the alcobev sector to collaborate with the bottle supplier with regard to innovation. Companies should have innovation officer on board and whose full-time job has to be on innovation and value addition. 

No alternative to glass bottles in premium segment

The professor underlined the importance of ‘thought process’ and research. “Whatever new technology comes in, one has to look at shapes, colours, aesthetics, the feel etc. how to get the maximum flavour, how to hold the bottle. These issues need to be looked into in a professional way. The user experience has to be factored in. You see many a time, empty bottles are kept as souvenirs. And as Indian companies we should think of what Indianness we can bring to the product through shapes, colours, culture etc. and how it complements with the bottle and the liquid within.”  There is no alternative to glass bottles for premium category of alcobev as consumers do not prefer premium liquor in PET bottles. 

Symbiotic relation between technology and design

While the big companies can bring in cost benefit partnering with the suppliers, the small players should leverage the flexibility they have by experimenting to the extent possible to offset costs. There is need for companies, irrespective of the size, to orient themselves to innovation and documenting it, even while adopting the best practices from around the world. Product development departments need boost. “Technology drives design. Development of technology takes a little longer, design is quicker but there is a symbiotic relationship between technology and design.”

Kaizen, continuous improvement to remove inefficiencies

Srinivas Mantri, Senior Manager, Beam Suntory India, talked about how the company came from a ‘Japanese thought process’ where continuous improvement or ‘Kaizen’ was in place. The idea is to keep removing the inefficiencies in the system. “Any innovation in our sector, it should factor in enhancement of customer experience and sustainability, giving back to the society, to nature.”

Beam Suntory is always working on these aspects, he said and mentioned that such processes had been implemented across different SKUs. “We have reduced the weight of the bottle, elevated the feel of the bottle, improved the label panels, reduced breakages.” Talking about glass bottles, he said, ‘see the liquid in the bottle, feel the bottle with hand and then taste the liquid…  and also sound of the opening of closure…. consumer experience is involved and is demanding’. “The consumer wants something nice and something new.”

Bars display bottles, not mono cartons

He mentioned how in bars, one does not get to see mono cartons, but only bottles showing the liquid. Underlying the importance of thought process, Mantri said that from sourcing to the brand and to the consumer, there is an evolving journey, hence there is need to work with partners for continuous improvement. To engage the consumer, one needs to research who the consumer is and what we are giving to him or her, then comes tying up with internal and external partners. Importantly, consumer feedback has to be factored in and the entire process is on building the brand and consumer loyalty. 

Anuj Bhargava, Managing Director, Kumar Labels, said there is a trend to remove mono cartons and when that happens, the focus is on the label on how it can be more attractive than the competition. Besides taste of the product, consumers pick the bottle for reasons such as the ‘look and feel’. Aesthetics is gaining considerable importance in this highly competitive market.