Tag Archives: India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the status of the liquor packaging industry?

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

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

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

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

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

How has the pandemic affected the company?

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

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

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

How can the premiumisation trend boost the industry?

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

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

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

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

Cheers to that!

Epitome Reserve Whisky Review

In this video we review the limited edition Epitome Reserve Rare Grain Whisky that was launched recently by United Spirits, a Diageo Company. With only 2000 bottles made yet this is India’s first 100% Rice Grain whisky which celebrates India’s iconic people that have shaped the various landscapes and industries that they’ve been in.

The ABV percentage is 46% of this whisky and check out our Exclusive First Review of what we thought.

This video is for entertainment purpose only and the magazine, channel and the host do not promote alcohol consumption.

India’s Most Expensive Unknown Vodkas

In this video we take a look at India’s Most Expensive Unknown Vodka’s. Usually consumers always tend to pick vodkas that are more affordable or known to them. But did you know that there are Vodkas in a Super Premium Category as well which are more expensive?

So in this video we take a look at some of these Vodka’s and see how they taste. The ABV % of the Vodkas are 40% and they are available online select states.

This video is for entertainment purpose only and the magazine, channel and the host do not promote alcohol consumption.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple introduced in India

Consolidating its leadership position in the flavoured whiskey segment, Jack Daniel’s recently announced the introduction of Tennessee Apple in India. It will be the third flavoured whiskey to be introduced in India after Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire. The company would like to add more consumers to the whiskey category.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple is crafted from the iconic Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, charcoal mellowed and matured in new American oak barrels, and apple liqueur made from the highest quality ingredients to deliver a delicious Jack Daniel’s experience. Jack Apple is a deliciously smooth and refreshing apple-flavoured whiskey that’s uniquely Jack.

The initial launch has taken place in Mumbai, Goa, Pune and Gurugram and will soon be rolled-out in other parts of the country.

“Mr. Jack was known for being an innovator and always exploring how to do things differently, including adding different flavours and ingredients,” said Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, Chris Fletcher. “Tennessee Apple is a perfect blend of crisp, green apples enhanced by the sweet bold notes of Jack. It is like a freshly picked apple in a glass of Jack.” Currently, they have no plans to launch another flavour in the near future, he points.

Says Siddharth Wadia, General Manager – India, Middle East and North Africa, Brown-Forman Worldwide LLC, “After a great response to our other flavoured whiskey brands, we are excited about our latest offering to our consumers in India and I am sure will help us expand the Jack Daniel’s consumer franchise in the country. With in-home consumption on a rise and consumers looking for varied options, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple will surely connect with not only existing friends of Jack, but also enable us to make new friends.”

It’s available in retail stores (at 70 proof, 750 ml bottle) with a starting price of `2300 and it is recommended to serve Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple chilled – neat, on the rocks or with tonic water for people who love cocktails.

Carlsberg India enters wheat beer segment with Tuborg White

Carlsberg India enters the premium wheat beer segment with the launch of Tuborg White. This new Tuborg offering is beyond any ordinary lager. It is a cloudy drink with a smooth refreshing taste with a subtle fruity twist. It is yet another premium beer from the portfolio of Carlsberg India that provides consumers who are seeking beverages with a new taste profile that can be enjoyed with friends and family.

Over the last decade, the wheat beer segment has developed wide acceptance in India with a loyal base of consumers. There is an opportunity to expand this segment with the right liquid providing a consistent refreshing taste.

The recipe for this brew was developed specifically to appeal to Indian consumers by expert brewers in R&D center in Copenhagen, Denmark. It delivers the consistency and perfection that Tuborg is known and loved for across the world. The new brew has been launched across Maharashtra in 500ML Can and 330ML glass bottles with an attractive launch price of `170 and `140 respectively. This is the most premium priced offering in the Tuborg portfolio and in line with the choice of ingredients and its standout packaging.

Referring to the launch, Partha Jha, Vice President Marketing, Carlsberg India said, “The launch of Tuborg White reinforces our commitment to the Indian market. Tuborg White is a unique European style brew specially customised for the Indian consumer. With the easy-to-drink refreshing liquid layered under a delicate fruity twist, we are sure it will be loved not only by lager drinkers, but all consumers looking for a change from the regular. With our manufacturing & distribution capabilities, we are confident of expanding the category and will continue to offer exciting choices to our consumers from their favourite brand.”

Tuborg White is currently available in Maharashtra and will soon be launched in other states in the coming months.

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.

1 million cases in sales – Seagram’s 100 Pipers becomes the First and Only Scotch Brand in India to Smash the Record, yet again

Seagram’s 100 Pipers, the largest selling Scotch whisky in India, continues to achieve bigger milestones and set new benchmarks in the industry. It has proven itself to be a market leader, thought leader, and innovation leader. In the last business cycle, Jul’20 – Jun’21, 100 Pipers has broken not one but two records.

100 Pipers became the first and only Scotch brand in India to cross the 1 million+ case mark in annual sales, twice – a solid stamp on the consumers’ love for the brand.

Adding to this success streak, the brand’s premium variant ‘100 Pipers Blended Scotch, Aged 12 years’ crossed 100,000 Cases in annual sales for the first time ever since its launch in 2012. A notable performance by the aged variant – it is now the largest selling 12-Year-Old Scotch in India, confirming that “Age Matters” to the discerning Indian scotch aficionado.

Asserting its dominance in the Scotch whisky market, the brand had recently launched a new variant ‘100 Pipers Blended Malt Scotch, Aged 8 Years’. This is the first & only ‘100% Malt’ Scotch offering in the Standard Scotch category – a game-changing innovation by 100 Pipers.

With a global footprint spanning eight countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South America, 100 Pipers brings a truly international experience to the Indian consumers, with the widest range of unique Scotch variants. It is also the second largest Scotch whisky in Asia.

Commenting on the multiple achievements, Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India said, “100 Pipers continues to shape the Indian Scotch segment and set new records. This is driven by its increased popularity among the younger, aspirational consumers who are resonating strongly with the brand’s purpose-led initiatives due to their uniqueness, authenticity and credibility.

Like, the international award-winning Legacy Project – which showcases endangered Indian art-forms via Limited Edition Packs and provides tangible livelihood support to artisans. Recognised internationally and in India by some of the most prestigious awards in the world for creative excellence, The Legacy Project won the Bronze Pencil at One Show Awards (New York), Merit at D&AD Awards (UK), Bronze at Spikes Asia, and multiple honours at Kyoorius Creative Awards.

Also, the 100 Pipers Play for a Cause platform that has been leveraging music for many years to raise awareness and funds for various social causes like meals for underprivileged, flood relief, etc. in addition to supporting the partnering musicians.

In addition to trendsetting campaigns, the young, aspirational consumers have also taken well to the newly launched 100 Pipers Blended Malt Scotch, Aged 8 Years. This category-first 100% Malt Scotch seeks to give younger consumers a unique experience that welcomes them into the world of Malt Scotch. With the discerning consumer increasingly experimenting with Malts, this eclectic and premium scotch showcases its craftsmanship and heritage that dates back to decades of scotch whisky making.

Overall, our strong performance over the years is a testament to great product craftsmanship, category first innovations, our differentiated and aspirational brand communication, and purpose-led initiatives – all coming together to help us build greater stature esp. amongst the younger consumers.”

As the largest whisky market in the world, India’s Scotch segment continues to be highly aspirational for whisky consumers. With sales hitting bigger benchmarks across variants and a keen eye on leading innovation, Seagram’s 100 Pipers is poised to continue as the dominant force in the market.

Gujarat High Court admits petition challenging prohibition

The petition has argued that the government cannot decide what a person will eat or drink inside the premises of one’s house. The petition has invoked the ‘Right to Privacy’ in challenging the prohibition law. The Gujarat government’s Advocate General Kamal Trivedi said the petition should be filed in the Supreme Court as the apex court had upheld the Act in its 1952 judgment. He contended that the law validated by the apex court cannot be overturned by the High Court.

Petitioners say matter should be heard on merits

The petitioners, however, argued that the matter should be taken up on merits, as the provisions challenged in the pleas are materially different from what they were in 1951 as they have been amended over the years. They added that the right to privacy was not recognised as a fundamental right in 1951 when the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the provisions in the prohibition law.The batch of petitions have challenged the constitutional validity of sections section 12, 13 (total prohibition on manufacture, purchase, import, transportation, export, sale, possession, use and consumption of liquor), 24-1B, 65 of the Gujarat Prohibition Act, 1949, and sought them to be declared as ultra vires Article 246 of the Constitution.The provisions are “arbitrary, irrational, unfair, unreasonable, and discriminatory…and despite prohibition being in place for more than six decades, a steady supply of liquor continues to be available through an underground network of bootleggers, organised criminal gangs and corrupt officials”, the petitioners who were represented by senior advocates such as Mihir Thakore, Mihir Joshi, Devan Parikh and Saurabh Soparkar said.“With expanding interpretation of the right to life, personal liberty and privacy, as contained in Article 21 of the Constitution, a citizen has a right to choose how he lives, so long as he is not a nuisance to the society. The state cannot dictate what he will eat and what he will drink,” one of the pleas said.

Right to privacy is a fundamental right’: SC

The Supreme Court in another judgment had held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and is an integral part of the right to life and liberty. Privacy is a right to be enjoyed by every human being by virtue of his or her own existence. It also extends to bodily integrity, personal autonomy, compelled speech and freedom to dissent or move or think. The right to privacy is to restrain government and private actions that threaten or hinders the privacy of individuals.

Regulation, and not prohibition, is what Gujarat needs: Devan Parikh, advocate

Devan Parikh, one of the advocates to the petitioner in a YouTube post by Vibes of India, has put forth the argument that the petitioners are not “asking for the removal of the prohibition policy lock, stock and barrel. We are asking the government to draw a fine line.”He pointed out that advertising of liquor in many parts of the world is not based on the alcohol content or intoxication. “Alcohol is sold basically for its refined taste. The kind of liquor that was available (when prohibition was introduced in 1961), there was some justification to have a rider. But after all these years and the knowledge base we have, the law needs a relook. Petitioners are saying balance the liberty a person can have, the choice a person can have. If it has an ill impact, then deal with those issues. You cannot throw the baby with the bath water.”

Four walls concept clarified

He further mentions that the petitioners are clear that you cannot do anything within the four walls. “If that is the case, I can consume drugs, I can commit any crime within my four walls. The four walls concept is not very well understood in this case.” The petitioners believe that one should have the liberty to drink in a manner that does not impact society at large or have adverse social repercussions. Devan Parikh referred to the Constitutional provision of principle of proportionality. “The Constitution permits you to put reasonable restrictions on the exercise of your rights, in public interest, in the society, and in your own interest… those interests have to be balanced. There is justification to put restrictions, put it, but in present times, does it make sense to have total prohibition. There is need for regulation not prohibition.”

Prohibition needs a relook

Taking the argument further, he said the rest of the country where there is no prohibition, are there problems or not. Will Gujarat have more problems if prohibition is lifted? “We are saying with the passage of time, people are more entitled… Constitution is a live organ and that this issue needs a relook. When prohibition was introduced look at the kind of liquor that was available then and look at the fatalities at that point of time.”Terming it as contradictory, government giving liquor permits on medical terms, he asked “a person consuming liquor for health reasons, will he or she not get intoxicated.” A person can permit in Gujarat for an annual fee of nearly ` 4,000 and the eligibility is that he or she should be above the age of 40 and should have some medical condition. Visitors too can apply for a temporary permit, but not the residents of the State.

Gujarat in a Gandhian-bind

The problem with Gujarat is that it has a perception problem. Gujarat is a state from where Mahatma Gandhi came who considered alcohol consumption as a social evil. Gujarat is caught in a Gandhian-bind. Devan Parikh asks the logic behind the prohibition in the name of Mahatma Gandhi. “With no disrespect to Mahatma Gandhi, I would like to state that Gandhi died in 1948 and at that time there was no prohibition in Gujarat till 1961. What happened during this interim period to Gandhiji’s advocacy?Till such time the High Court gives its verdict, we are going to see a lot of heightened activity from both sides espousing their causes and social media is going to flame it further. Meanwhile, liquor (including spurious) will be available through various ‘underground’ channels in Gujarat, a state which has seen many deaths due to illicit liquor. In 2012, 143 deaths were reported from Gujarat in a hooch tragedy.

Bengaluru shows the recovery path, alcohol consumption on the rise

Let’s say cheers to the ‘Pub capital’ and ‘Microbrewery capital ‘of India, Bengaluru. It is showing the way to the country that the pandemic should not upset social life with alcohol being an intrinsic part of social life. Consumption of alcohol is on the rise in Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka and mind you there is considerable amount of ‘responsible drinking’ happening, with a few exceptions here and there.

The city which introduced pub, microbrewery and nightlife culture is slowly bouncing back, negotiating all the restrictions, ambiguous and unambiguous ones, placed by the government in its bid to check the spread of Covid-19. Though the bars and restaurants are tottering their way back into business, the end-consumer has found ways to keep the spirit going. This is good for the business. The end-consumer is infusing confidence in the liquor business as we witness increased liquor offtake.

Beer and IML offtake up

Consumption of beer has gone up by 38.98 % and Indian Made Liquor (IML) by 31.54% in the first five months of 2021, compared to the corresponding period in 2020 and the Karnataka Excise Department is laughing all the way to the bank. Liquor has been a money spinner for many governments and Karnataka is among the leading states to register good excise revenue. These are the first signs of recovery of the industry which like almost all other sectors was battered by the pandemic.

Karnataka hoping to touch `25,000 in Excise Revenues

Between April and August of 2021, Karnataka had sales of 87.56 lakh cartons of beer, up from 63 lakh cartons of beer in 2020. The trend was similar with regard to IML – 2.61 crore cartons in 2021, up from 1.98 crore cartons last year. Thanks to the end-consumer, the Karnataka Excise Department was able to cross the `10,000 crore revenue mark for the 5 months’ period, an increase from `7,755 crores during the corresponding period in 2020. In these five months, the Department has already registered 41.49% of its annual target and is hoping to surpass the target of `24,580 by the end of the financial year. In 2020, the Department had earned `23,332 crores, getting past the target of `22,700 crores.

Home-drinking gives a push

Thanks to the end-consumers, who quickly adapted themselves to the pandemic situation, and found ways to get their supplies and to drink at home. The Covid-19 pandemic and its associated government measures to limit mobility impacted patterns and places of alcohol consumption. Home became central for survival, for hope, for businesses to have some continuity. Work from home; online shopping; online classes; drink at home; work-out at home and the like have become the new normal, even as businesses are slowly opening up, depending upon what restrictions each State Government keeps announcing on a frequent basis. Remember Lockdown 3.0 last year and when liquor shops reopened? It was crazy queues, not just in Bengaluru, but across the country. The Karnataka Excise Department recorded liquor sales of `45 crores on the first day of reopening, even before the shutters were pulled down at 7 pm. Around 3.9 lakh litres of beer and 8.5 lakh litres of IML was sold on just one day. And one store – Tonique which boasts to be Asia’s largest liquor boutique, made a whopping business of `4 crores on its first day of reopening.

Seek lifting of restrictions

Bengaluru has become a highly vibrant city in the recent past and restaurant and bars are open till 1 a.m, though at the time of writing all restaurants, bars, clubs and wine stores have to close by 9.30 p.m. The Bengaluru Hoteliers Association President, P.C.Rao who recently met the Chief Minister, Basavaraj Bommai tried to convince the government on lifting the ‘unscientific restrictions’. He asked ‘Does the virus come only at night or on weekends?’ Presently, the liquor business is driven by retail vends with night curfew in place and restrictions of seating in bars and restaurants. There is no online sale of liquor in Bengaluru, but people can buy at wine stores, in mega super markets which have a separate liquor outlet and boutique stores.

Mumbai doubles liquor revenue

It is not just Bengaluru or Karnataka which is witnessing growth in sales of liquor, it is happening across the country, though dampened by the pandemic. In Mumbai, liquor revenue doubled from `264.85 crores to `512 crores with the lockdown turning out to a blessing in disguise. The Excise Department here has set a target of `19,500 crores for 2021-2022.

Pune has the most drinkers

According to a 2020 survey by Statista, Pune topped all the cities with 39.02% people consuming alcohol, followed by Mumbai (37.87%), Lucknow (37.5%), Bhubaneswar (37.3%), Hyderabad (37.24%), Delhi (35.54%), Bengaluru (33.39%), Indore (33.33%), Jaipur (32.18%), Chandigarh (28.33%), Chennai (28.16%) and Kolkata (23.5%).

FY21 sees decline in IMFL sales

However, In FY 21, there has been a 12% decline in sales of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) compared to FY20, according to the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC). For the entire fiscal year, the total sales of IMFL was 305 million cases of nine litres each.

Positive trend in third and fourth quarters expected

The Confederation Director General Vinod Giri said that many states have showed a positive trend through the quarters and added that strong performance in the third and fourth quarters of FY21 ‘reflects the fundamental strength’ in the business. “It also confirms that there is no lasting shift against alcoholic beverages in consumption baskets.” The Confederation listed five states that helped recovery in liquor sales – Maharashtra, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Some states such as West Bengal, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh witnessed large decline in sales compared to the previous financial year. There is some interesting statistics when it comes to West Bengal. According to economic research agency ICRIER and law consulting firm PLR Chambers, West Bengal ranks second after Uttar Pradesh in terms of absolute number of people who consume alcohol – 1.4 crore. The five southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala together consume as much as 45% of all liquor sold in the country.

Big players bet on recovery in fiscal 2022

Carlsberg’s global chief executive Cees’t Hart said, “Our business had another very volatile year with frequent changes in restrictions. In Asia, the situation is uncertain in a number of markets such as Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, India and also Malaysia due to the low level of vaccinations. In India, it’s a bit better. Infection rates are in decline. And there we see the off-trade more or less open to 90-95% and 70% in on-trade.” Beer sales in India grew in double digits in the quarter to June compared to the year-ago figure, but were still nearly half the sales in the pre-Covid corresponding period of 2019. However, Carlsberg’s India business grew 40% year-on-year in the quarter ended June. Similarly, Pernod Ricard, the world’s second largest distiller after Diageo, said it expects some recovery in India in fiscal year 2022. “For this year, we expect a gradual recovery. India was up 9% and was very resilient given the environment, while the underlying consumer-driven trends are clearly there,” said the Chairman of Pernod Ricard, Alexandre Ricard. The ICRIER report shows promise with India among the fastest growing markets for alcoholic beverages globally, with an estimated market size of USD52.5 billion in 2020. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.8% between 2020 and 2023. This indeed is music to the ears and we would like to hear from companies on how they are promoting ‘responsible drinking’.

Greater Than Gin, yes, what can be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambrosia: How is Hapusa different from Greater Than?

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

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

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

Ambrosia: What next from ‘Nao Spirits’?

Virmani: Lots more