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Indian Single Malts Outperform Global Single Malts

Indian single malts have come of age, truly. And they have been savoured in India and elsewhere too. The good news is that in 2023, Indian single malts outperformed global brands, with promise of doing better. According to early estimates by the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) Indian single malts accounted for approximately 53% of total sales in 2023, a very impressive performance considering that Indian single malts are a decade old phenomenon.

As per CIABC estimates out of the total sales of around 675,000 cases of single malts in 2023, Indian-origin makers sold around 345,000 cases and the rest was sold by Scottish and other international brands. Indian brands such as Amrut Fusion; Amrut Kurinji; Rampur Indian Single Malt; Paul John Mithuna; Indri; Kamet; and GianChand have all given the global players a tough competition. The Indian brands have been competing with well established brands such as Glenlivet, Macallan, Lagavulin and Talisker.

Domestic brands grow 23%

In 2022, Scotch brands sold 2,96,000 cases with a 35 % increase in sales, while Indian brands sold about 2,81,000 cases with a 2.4 % increase. With growing popularity, the overtaking by Indian single malts was given. In 2023, the domestic brands have registered a growth of about 23 per cent, compared to 11 % by imported brands.

Indian whiskies have been making global waves too since 2010 when Amrut Fusion got global recognition with Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible ranking it third, after blind tasting of over 4,000 whiskies. In the 2022 International Wine and Spirits Competition, of the 11 awards that came India’s way, four were for single malts.

In sync with premiumisation

The Director General of CIABC, Mr. Vinod Giri said that this has been made possible due to the premiumisation drive that is happening across all segments of the alcohol sector. Indian single malts have upped the game, in terms of quality, presentation and reach, hence the stunning turnaround was expected. Indian distilleries have worked hard to come to this level, matching international brands. CIABC, he mentioned, is working with the Indian players and government agencies to evolve product and process standards that ensure product quality uniformly and consistently.

What is heartwarming is that the Indian consumer, many of whom have travelled globally, knows that Indian brands are making it to the global stage. This endorsement of the ‘Make in India’ products has largely helped sales.

Price-sensitive consumer gravitating towards Indian brands

Hemanth Adapa, founder of Single Malt Amateur Club (SMAC) said “Indian whiskies are riding the third wave of global recognition and success. It is no simple feat that high quality single malt whiskies are being made from scratch in India and repeatedly being featured in the top whiskies of the world. While the awards and ‘expert views are giving the whiskies a thumbs up what is most encouraging is the consumer gravitating towards these. It is an extremely difficult task to convince the price sensitive Indian consumer to reach for an Indian made brand as against a Scotch which has been the mainstay for premium whiskies in India. This has taken a lot of effort by the manufacturers of repute to encourage this transition. While there are other factors to be considered such as the supply chain issues and global shortage of aged Scotch whisky causing many brands to follow an ‘allocation’ strategy towards India, this is no small feat and perhaps the greatest recognition to the quality of these fabulous whiskies.”

Asked whether the short supply of aged Scotch whisky and supply chain issues had led to increased sales of Indian single malts, answered in the negative, adding “This has not been a flash in the pan for it to be short lived. There are many risks around the governance and quality control of the newly formed category of Indian single malts which is very similar to the challenges in the Japanese whiskies but surely not a doubt around the whiskies being recognised today.”

Amrut started it all

The fact that brands such as Amrut and others have been performing consistently is testimony to the popularity of Indian single malts, not just in India, elsewhere too. One cannot forget what Jim Murray the legendary whisky critic of the world had said in 2010 that “Amrut Fusion, whisky from India, can only be a dream of many Scottish distilleries.” Prior to that, Indian whisky was not even considered as a whisky as it was only producing molasses-based whisky. ‘Amrut Fusion’ changed that as it is made of 80 per cent Indian malted barley and 20 % Scottish peated barley.

In 2022, Amrut which soared by 183 % dethroned Pernod’s Glenlivet which grew by 39 %, according to Euromonitor data. In 2022, two Amrut offerings topped the list, much more sales than Glenlivet, followed by Paul John. Amrut Fusion sold 99,000 cases and Amrut Amalgam 94,000, Solan Gold 20,00 and Rampur 10,000 cases.

Global players go local

Such impressive sales have led to global players in India to start Indian brands such Godawan from the stables of Diageo in 2022. Godawan the artisanal single malt whisky is finished in special casks selectively curated with Indian botanicals. In 2023 Pernod launched Longitude 77, its first Indian single malt with plans to export to the UAE and later to other markets. Further endorsement has come India’s way from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which said that India has overtaken France to become the largest market for whisky sales by volume and single malts are also contributing significantly.

Awards galore

From 2010 onwards, Indian single malts have been cornering global awards at regular intervals. The latest is Radico Khaitan’s Rampur Asava Indian Single Malt Whisky which bagged the ‘Best World Whisky’ at the prestigious John Barleycorn Awards. Rampur’s innovative approach to the ageing process distinguishes it from other world whiskies. The Himalayas provide polar opposite climate conditions throughout the year with the flavour of the famous Indian Summer giving Rampur an added dimension and depth. The malt interacts extensively with the cask, resulting in maturation almost four times faster than in Scotland.

Sanjeev Banga, President of International Business at Radico Khaitan Ltd, and the creator of the iconic Rampur range of whiskies says, “Our position as possibly the only Indian company in the industry with products such as Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky, Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and Sangam World Malt Whisky in the super-luxury space, alongside international alcohol companies is testament to their quality. The global availability of our products, coupled with the admiration and recommendations from top experts including this latest achievement in the John Barleycorn Awards, stands as proof of our unwavering commitment to product quality and consumer satisfaction.” Banga further added that Rampur Asava will soon be available for Whisky aficionados in the Indian domestic market.

In emphasising the global significance of Indian whisky, Kunal Madan, Vice President of International Business at Radico Khaitan added, “India commands a staggering 48 % share of the global whisky market. While the majority stays within our borders, the efforts of producers like us have successfully introduced our exceptional Indian whiskies to markets such as the US and UK. In a landscape dominated by only a handful of Indian whiskies, Rampur has earned its place as one of the most highly regarded brands. This recognition reinforces the impact of our journey, guided by quality and innovation, beyond national borders.”

Another Indian single malt to walk away with another prestigious award is the Indri Diwali Collector’s Edition which won the ‘Double Gold Best in Show’ at the 2023 Whiskies of the World Awards, beating over 100 other varieties including scotch, bourbon and British single malts. Indri, the peated Indian single malt whisky is a product of the Haryana-based Piccadilly Distilleries, launched in 2021.

“The industry can offer much more and consumers want much more as well. This growing appetite for experimentation could translate into a brighter future for the Indian spirits market, beyond the projected flatline of 2024,” Vinod Giri added.

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.”  

The Indian Single Malt Whisky Landscape

Indian Whiskies are experiencing a new high. With a growing drinking population the Indian alcobev industry is likely to boom to a new high.

In recent years, a formidable challenger has emerged from an unexpected corner of the world – Indian single malts. With their unique character and exceptional quality, Indian single malts have proven that they are more than capable of matching their Scottish counterparts.

One of the key factors that differentiate Indian single malts from their Scottish counterparts is the influence of terroir. India’s tropical climate, with its soaring temperatures and high humidity, creates a whisky maturation process unlike any other. The angel’s share – the amount of whisky lost to evaporation – is significantly higher in India, resulting in an accelerated aging process and intensifying the flavours within a shorter timeframe. This unique maturation process infuses Indian single malts with bold, robust flavours that tantalise the taste buds.

Amrut’s recognition placed India on the global whisky map, but Mohan Meakin pioneered Indian single malt whisky back in 1858, long before Amrut.

While Indri Diwali Edition’s win is celebrated in India, the perception differs internationally. Even though India strives for quality whisky production, global recognition is a work in progress. 

 Unlike established producers like Japan, India’s whisky prominence is relatively recent – the industry is shifting from the traditional older consumer to younger audiences, by diversifying consumption methods through cocktails.

More distilleries venturing into malt whisky production – Amrut, Paul John, Rampur, and newcomers like Piccadily aim for global market penetration amid rising Scotch whisky imports.

Indian single malts proudly celebrate the country’s rich heritage while incorporating modern techniques and influences. Distilleries often draw inspiration from local ingredients, spices, and cultural traditions to create whiskies that are uniquely Indian. From the use of Indian barley to the incorporation of regional flavours like cardamom, cloves, and saffron, these whiskies encapsulate the essence of India, offering a sensory experience that is both nostalgic and forward-thinking.

The meteoric rise of Indian single malts has not gone unnoticed in the whisky world. They have garnered numerous awards and accolades, winning over skeptics and enthusiasts alike. The recognition from renowned whisky experts and critics has solidified the position of Indian single malts as a force to be reckoned with in the industry. As more people discover the quality and complexity of these whiskies, their popularity continues to soar.

The emergence of Indian single malts has undoubtedly shaken the foundations of the whisky industry, challenging the long-standing dominance of Scotch whisky. With their distinct character, unique maturation process, and unwavering commitment to quality, Indian single malts have proven that excellence in whisky knows no geographical boundaries. As whisky enthusiasts and collectors seek out new and exciting expressions, Indian single malts stand ready to captivate their palates and leave an indelible mark on the world of whisky.

Despite the hype about the magnitude of Indian whisky compared to Scotch, actual consumption statistics show no drastic increase. However, global recognition for quality Indian whiskies has notably risen.

The bulk of India’s whisky market comprises blended and daily drinking whiskies, not just the premium single malts like Amrut/Paul John – underscores the  dominance of everyday brands like Signature and McDowell’s. The knowledge and information of seasoned whisky enthusiasts have expanded significantly over the past five years, and they demand whiskies that are:  high-quality; limited editions; priced conveniently available in a broader market.

Newer or curious consumers are gradually transitioning from lower-end to mid-segment whiskies, amplifying affordability in the ₹1500-₹2000 range.

While single malts garner recognition and elevate the industry’s stature, the substantial demand driving the industry’s profit lies within these affordable mid-tier whiskies. 

Amrut’s pioneering strategy of launching single malts in the UK, rather than India, set a precedent for others like Paul John and Rampur. The idea was to create international demand that would pique curiosity domestically, a strategy that continues to shape the market.

The entry of big players like Diageo and Beam Suntory into India reflects the strategic shift to safeguard their market shares. Diageo’s move from importing Scotch to producing locally aims to counter the rising curiosity for Indian whiskies among consumers, particularly when price points are comparable.

Comparing Indian single malts with global counterparts – blind tastings often unveil the impressive quality of Indian whiskies.

Market acceptance remains a challenge due to the stronghold of brands like Johnny Walker and Chivas, deeply entrenched in the Indian consumer psyche.

Quality control emerges as a critical concern. Despite norms borrowed from the Scotch Whisky Association, the lack of a regulatory authority poses challenges. Looking ahead to 2024, manufacturers must grapple with the realities of production complexities and retaining skilled personnel. The absence of a consistent master blender/distiller in India points to the challenges of replicating Scotch whisky’s intricate craft.

Production transparency, along with quality control, demands attention, emphasising the need for a regulatory body to standardise practices. This prevents the replication of the Japanese whisky industry’s pitfalls, where lack of oversight led to a decline in repute.

International market alignment is crucial, but Indian single malt production capabilities are still dwarfed by Scotland. Expansion plans by major players like Amrut, Paul John, and Rampur indicate the industry’s growth trajectory.

The Future of Whisky Production  

Accelerated maturation in India for quicker whisky development:  The high Angel’s Share poses challenges due to significant evaporation losses. To counter this, distilleries are employing sophisticated warehouse management techniques to minimise losses and maximise output.       

Exploration of alternate sources for key ingredients: Distillers are seeking sustainable and efficient means to procure essential elements for whisky production and exploring new avenues beyond traditional sources.

While currently in its nascent stages in India, there’s a growing emphasis on data-driven processes and automation. Techniques like employing spectrometers to analyse whisky flavours and aromas are being explored to ensure consistency and quality.

Manufacturers are associating with clubs and creating limited editions for various festivals like Diwali or Christmas. Brands are diversifying their offerings, aiming to capture consumer interest with specialised releases tied to zodiac signs, festivals, or master distiller editions.

Expansion into different spirit categories: This may redefine the industry landscape and provide diverse options for consumers beyond traditional whisky offerings. The future might also see a more adventurous consumer base exploring a wide array of whisky variants.

Pernod Ricard India Launches Longitude 77, a New Indian Single Malt

Pernod Ricard India has entered the Indian Single Malt category with the introduction of Longitude 77, marking three decades of the company’s presence in India. The move reflects the increasing popularity of premium Indian spirits, with Longitude 77 aiming to pay homage to India’s rich heritage, craftsmanship, culture, landscape, and terroir.

Named after the line of longitude that runs through the length of India at 77° East, the brand seeks to symbolize India’s position on the world map. The launch event was recently held at DLF Golf & Country Club in Gurugram, showcased what was termed a ‘Reimagined India’, which was led by Arjun Rampal. The evening also featured contemporary Indian luxury elements, including a presentation of Indian soundscapes by musician Karsh Kale, a fashion showcase by designer Ashish Soni, and a culinary exploration by Chef Vicky Ratnani.

Produced in small batches in a distillery in Dindori, Nashik, Longitude 77 brings together locally sourced ingredients with a double-matured single malt is aged in American Bourbon barrels and wine casks, presenting a mahogany colour and a flavour profile described as smooth, full-bodied, and balanced, with hints of caramel, vanilla, and faint peat smoke.

The packaging of Longitude 77 features an indigo-coloured matte finish box and bottle, paying homage to the colour that India gave to the world. Both the box and the bottle depict the map of India with the Longitude 77° passing through, symbolizing the essence of the country.

Longitude 77 Bottle and Packaging

Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India, said, “As we celebrate 30 incredible years in India, our commitment to delivering quality brands and experiences gets enhanced with the launch of Longitude 77. Inspired by the line that runs through the heart and soul of India, Longitude 77 is a symbol of authentic contemporary Indian luxury. Our Master Distiller has carefully crafted an exquisite liquid to celebrate and showcase India’s rich culture, heritage, terroir and craftsmanship. We believe that Longitude 77 will give the world a taste of “India Reimagined”. We are confident that this exceptional addition to our portfolio will be embraced by whisky enthusiasts across the world and elevate their convivial experience.”

Longitude 77 Master Distiller, R Natrajan shared, “It is an exciting time for Indian single malts as whisky enthusiasts discover the beauty of home-grown spirits. Longitude 77 is an Indian single malt that’s proud of its provenance, crafted with utmost care and attention. Produced in small batches, it seeks to represent the best of India’s rich terroir and local ingredients. The liquid has been double matured and brought to perfection in American Bourbon barrels and wine casks. The result is an exquisite, full bodied single malt with notes of caramel, vanilla, and subtle peat smoke. Longitude 77 is more than just a single malt; it is our homage to the enchanting spirit of India.” 

The launch event also had a sipping experience of the whisky, featuring serves celebrating unique Indian ingredients with Geographical Indication (GI) tags. Currently the malt is available in selected regions, including Goa, Maharashtra, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi Duty Free, the brand aims to expand its presence in other markets, targeting a premium convivial experience for Indian whisky drinkers.

AAP MP Sanjay Singh arrested, the liquor scam dragnet spreads

  • ED files chargesheet stating Singh got Rs. 3 crores
  • AAP claims vendetta for raising Adani issue

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on October 3 arrested Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh with regard to the Delhi liquor scam.  Sanjay Singh has been remanded to 5-day ED custody by Special Judge M.K.Nagpal. After the former Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia was arrested, Singh is the next high profile leader to get arrested.

The noose around the leaders of AAP seems to be tightening and the apex court made an observation why the AAP is not a party in the case, since the agencies have been mentioning that AAP has been the beneficiary. The BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala and MP Parvesh Verma alleged that Kejriwal is the “kingpin” behind the “scam” and his role will soon be investigated.

While the onus continues to be on the agencies to prove that these leaders and the party have ‘illegally’ benefitted from the excise policy, the AAP is crying hoarse that it is ‘vendetta’ politics and that ‘no money’ was found by the agencies in any of the raids.  However, this time the agencies have put it on record that the AAP MP benefited by Rs. 2 crores.

The  ED has told the Rouse Avenue Court that Rs. 2 crore in cash was delivered to Sanjay Singh’s residence.  The ED made startling revelations that the cash was given in two tranches to Sanjay Singh and a total of Rs 3 crore was given. This cash delivery was confirmed by Dinesh Arora, an accused-turned-approver and the ED said this was confirmed by the AAP MP himself. Dinesh Arora, it is claimed, was a close aide of Sisodia. And Arora was arrested by the ED under criminal sections of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in a case linked to the liquor scam.

Further consolidating on its evidence, the ED said Dinesh Arora’s chartered accountant had confirmed that the cash was delivered to Singh’s residence and has seized documents that corroborate the same. The ED reportedly conducted searches in 239 locations while seizing documents and phone of Sanjay Singh and told the court that it is examining the documents and other evidence and needed 10-day remand of the AAP leader.

Unlike in Sisodia’s case where the ED has not established any money trail, the ED this time is stating that it has established the trail between the two individuals and the AAP MP was instrumental in formulating the Delhi Excise policy which was revoked, post the scandal. In the charge sheet, the ED stated Arora met Singh at a party in the latter’s restaurant ‘Unplugged Courtyard’ and Singh is said to have asked Arora to generate funds from restaurant-owners for the Aam Aadmi party for the Delhi Assembly elections. He said he gave a cheque of Rs 82 lakh.

The charge sheet further mentioned that Arora in his statement that another accused, Amit Arora, sought help in shifting his liquor shop from Okhla to Pitampura. The ED said Singh was involved in getting this done through the help of Sisodia who in turn got it sorted by the Excise Department. Further Arora claimed that he met the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal once at his residence with Singh while he had spoken to Sisodia five-six times.

“They are just putting false cases. Nothing comes out in the investigation. This is a waste of time for the investigative agencies. The country will not progress by putting false cases on people,” said Kejriwal.

AAP takes to streets

The Kejriwal-led party has gone to the streets stating that the ED was targeting Singh as he has been raising the Adani issue in Parliament and outside. AAP spokesperson Reena Gupta said, “Sanjay Singh kept on raising questions on the issue of Adani and this is why the raids are being conducted at his residence. The Central agencies found nothing earlier and won’t find anything today either. First, they conducted raids at the residence of some journalists yesterday and today, raids conducted at Sanjay Singh’s residence.”

The now scrapped Delhi Excise policy was rolled out in November 2021 for the 2021-22 financial year, marking the exit of the Delhi government from retail sales of alcohol. It allowed private players to bid for licenses. The investigating agencies have alleged  that kickbacks were paid to implement the excise policy which was scrapped after Delhi’s lieutenant governor VK Saxena asked for an investigation into alleged irregularities.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has questioned both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the ED why the AAP has not been named as a beneficiary. The apex court asked how was a case made based on some “pressure groups” seeking policy change and whether bribery was involved. “We understand there was a policy change and everyone will support policies which are good for business. Pressure groups are always there but policy changes without money consideration will not matter. It’s the money part which makes it an offence. If we go to an extent to say that there cannot be any pressure groups, no government can function…Lobbying will always be there. Of course, bribes cannot be accepted,” the SC bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti said. The Additional Solicitor General argued that the policy was introduced to benefit the wholesalers and increase their share of profit. “Under the old policy, there was no way you can get the kickback and hence, there arose the need for policy change.”

“You have to establish a chain. The money has to flow from the liquor lobby to the person concerned. We agree with you that it’s difficult to establish the chain because everything is done under cover. But that’s where the competence of investigators comes in,” the bench added.

Sisodia was arrested by the CBI on February 26 after the agency alleged that many ineligible vendors were awarded licences by the Delhi government in exchange for bribes. The liquor policy, introduced in November 2022, was withdrawn eight months later amid allegations of corruption. Sisodia has been in custody since then. The ED arrested him in a money laundering case stemming from the CBI FIR on March 9. Sisodia resigned from the Delhi cabinet on February 28.

By R.Chandrakanth

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.”

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.

Distilleries Stop Manufacturing

Ethanol Production Hit as FCI Stops Rice Supply

About 100 odd distilleries in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and other States producing ethanol have shut operations or are in the process since the supply of subsidised rice from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has stopped since July 1, 2023. Distillers and associations such as the All India Distillers Association (AIDA) have approached the government to resolve the crisis immediately since it is resulting in distilleries sitting idle on their capacities.

On July 20th, the Government of India further amended the export policy, prohibiting with immediate effect the export of non-basmati white rice. This step was taken in order to ensure adequate availability of non-basmati White Rice for the Indian market and to allay the rise in prices in the domestic market. While this will help stabilise the price of the rixe in the local markets, this decisions have created somewhat of a crisis in the ethanol production and the set targets by the government are not going to be achievable.

The President of AIDA, V.N.Raina told Ambrosia that the Association had approached the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and also the Ministry of Petroleum, to avert further damage to the industry, by resuming supply of subsidized rice from FCI. The decision of the government he said had resulted in “stopping of grain ethanol industry and no production of ethanol is being carried out. We have apprised them of this issue as availability of damaged grains is almost minimum in the market, the FCI surplus rice must therefore be issued according to the allotments to distilleries immediately to enable the industry meet the goal of reaching 12% ethanol blending by the end of Oct-2023.”

Disrupts entire ethanol programme

Mr. Raina added that the distillery industry has been left without any FCI rice which is the sole feedstock available to the grain-based distilleries. “The stoppage has completely disrupted the entire ethanol programme and distilleries are left with no alternative but to stop production. This is very serious stoppage which must be rectified immediately,” he added.

Asked whether these distilleries could manage with supply of other grains, Mr. Raina said “Although the industry has choice of other grains like damaged rice and maize, but these are not available in sufficient quantity in the market and also the price of ethanol fixed by the govt. against supplies of these grains are unviable for the industry. We have been requesting the govt. to revise the prices to enable distilleries use this alternative also, although the available quantity will not be sufficient to meet the entire requirement for blending target without surplus rice from FCI. As far as sugarcane is concerned, there is nothing against supplies of sugar and sugarcane although this is the off -season period the total entire goal of blending cannot be fulfilled by sugar industry ethanol from grains is vital to fulfill nearly 50% of the total requirement of ethanol for achieving 20% blending by the year 2025-2026.”

As per data made available by FCI, in June 2,77,419.98 metric tonnes of subsidized rice was supplied to distilleries for ethanol production, a 216 per cent increase from 2022 June. In May it was 2.95 lakh metric tonnes.

Government admits shortfall in foodgrains productionThe Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti recently informed Lok Sabha that “Considering expected deficiency in rainfall caused by El Nino as speculated by the India Meteorological Department due to which Kharif crop production in the country may be affected…. In order to control inflationary trends and to maintain adequate stock levels under central pool for distribution under National Food Security Act and other welfare schemes for the benefit [of people], sale of wheat and rice under Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic) for state governments, including Tamil Nadu, has been discontinued with effect from 13.06.2023.”

She further said that “State governments of Karnataka, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have requested for wheat and rice under OMSS(D) Policy which was not acceded to due to discontinuation of sale of wheat and rice to states under OMSS(D) 2023.”Due to this the supply to distilleries has got affected. However, she mentioned that in 2022-21, subsidized rice supplied for ethanol was 49,000 MT, which increased to 10.68 lakh MT in 2021-22 and 13.05 lakh MT in 2022-23, up to July 10. Of 24 lakh MT supplied to distilleries for making ethanol so far, the maximum — 1.67 lakh MT — has been bought by Chandigarh Distillers & Bottlers Ltd, is followed by Bihar Distilleries and Bottlers Pvt Ltd (1.57 lakh MT), and BCL Industries Ltd (0.13 lakh MT). The government is expected to provide 32 lakh MT rice for ethanol during 2022-23 and with this disruption, it remains to be seen how the government will fulfil that obligation.

The price of rice supplied for ethanol is much lower compared to the economic cost incurred by FCI on procurement and storage operations: these were Rs 3,939.26 per quintal in 2020-21; Rs 3,562.49 in 2021-22; Rs 3,858.19 in 2022-23 (revised estimates); and Rs 3,918.05 per quintal in 2023-24 (BE).

Retail prices going up

The Government, in a statement, has admitted that domestic prices of rice are increasing and that retail prices have increased by 11.5% over a year and 3% over the past month. Export duty of 20% on non-basmati white rice was imposed on 08.09.2022 to lower the price as well ensure availability in the domestic market. However, the export of this variety increased from 33.66 LMT (Sept-March 2021-22) to 42.12 LMT (Sept-March 2022-23) even after imposition of 20% export duty. In the current FY 2023-24 (April-June), about 15.54 LMT of this variety of rice was exported against only 11.55 LMT during FY 2022-23 (April-June), i.e. an increase by 35%. This sharp increase in exports can be ascribed to high international prices due to geo-political scenario, El Nino sentiments and extreme climatic conditions in other rice producing countries, etc.

Non-Basmati White Rice constitutes about 25% of total rice exported from the country. The prohibition on export of Non-Basmati White Rice will lead to lowering of prices for the consumers in the country, the government has stated.

Sir Ivan Menezes to retire from Diageo; Debra Crew to be appointed Chief Executive Officer

Diageo recently announced that Sir Ivan Menezes has decided to retire as Chief Executive Officer and depart from the Diageo Board on 30 June 2023, following ten successful years leading the Company. Debra Crew, currently Chief Operating Officer, will be appointed Chief Executive Officer and join the Diageo Board, effective 1 July 2023.

Ivan joined Diageo through the merger of Guinness plc and Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and has held a number of senior positions in the business including Chief Operating Officer; President, Diageo North America; Chairman, Diageo Asia Pacific; and Chairman, Diageo Latin America and Caribbean. Ivan has been an Executive Director of Diageo since July 2012 and has served as Chief Executive Officer since July 2013, overseeing an outstanding period of change, growth and high performance.

During Ivan’s tenure, Diageo has made great strides towards its ambition to become one of the best performing, most trusted and respected consumer products companies in the world. Diageo has grown significantly during this period, now selling over 200 brands in more than 180 markets and is today, the number one company by net sales value in Scotch whisky, vodka, gin, rum, Canadian whisky, liqueurs, and also tequila, a category in which only eight years ago the company had no substantive position. And in December 2022, Guinness became the number one beer in the on-trade in Great Britain for the first time. 

Led by Ivan, Diageo has developed a leadership position in sustainability, becoming one of the top 1% of companies globally to achieve a “Double A” rating for Water Security and Climate Change from CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), as well as a particularly strong stance on inclusion and diversity, with the company ranked number one in the UK, and number two globally, in Equileap’s 2023 Gender Equality Report. And with Debra’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer, women will make up more than 50% of Diageo’s Executive Committee from 1 July 2023. During the past decade, Diageo’s total shareholder returns have strongly outperformed the FTSE100, and the Company has continued its progressive policy to increase dividends every year. In January 2023, Ivan was awarded a Knighthood for services to Business and to Equality in His Majesty The King’s 2023 New Year Honours List.

Prior to being appointed Chief Operating Officer in October 2022, Debra was President, Diageo North America and Global Supply, leading Diageo’s largest market to 14% organic net sales growth in fiscal 2022, following on from 20% organic net sales growth in the prior year. Debra originally joined the Diageo Board as a Non-Executive Director in April 2019, before stepping down from the Board when appointed President, Diageo North America in July 2020.

Debra is the former President and CEO of Reynolds American, Inc., where she delivered strong performance growth before the company’s acquisition, having previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer, and President and Chief Commercial Officer. Prior to that, Debra spent five years at PepsiCo, where she served as President, North America Nutrition; President, PepsiCo Americas Beverages; and President, Western Europe Region. Prior to PepsiCo, Debra held positions with Kraft Foods, Nestlé S.A. and Mars, Inc.

Debra is a graduate of the University of Denver, earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and previously served as an officer in the United States Army. She currently serves on the board of Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., having previously served on the boards of Newell Brands and Mondēlez International.

Javier Ferrán, Chairman, Diageo, said: “The Board is enormously grateful for Ivan’s contribution over the past decade. Under his stewardship, Diageo has consistently delivered a truly impressive performance to become one of the most respected businesses in the world. Ivan has transformed Diageo’s global footprint, brand portfolio and strategic focus, positioning our business as a clear leader in premium drinks. At the same time as delivering consistent shareholder returns, Ivan has nurtured a diverse and talented global workforce and made significant progress on the most material sustainability issues facing our business. Ivan leaves Diageo extremely well positioned for future growth, and we thank him again for everything he has helped us to achieve.

The Board has diligently planned for Ivan’s successor, and we are delighted to have appointed a leader of Debra’s calibre to the role. Debra has been a highly valued member of Diageo’s leadership team in recent years with an impressive track record of delivery both at Diageo and across other global consumer goods companies. She has deep consumer industry expertise as well as proven strategic capabilities, strong operational performance and a clear ability to build and lead teams. I have no doubt that Diageo is in the right hands for the next phase of its growth.”

Sir Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive Officer, Diageo, said, “It has been an enormous honour leading Diageo over the past decade. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved during that time, and I would like to thank my 28,000 talented colleagues around the world for all of their hard work, creativity and passion. I would also like to thank the Board for their encouragement, challenge and support over the years.