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Indian liquor trends pre and post COVID

The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to impact India since its arrival in spring last year. The government initially reacted by imposing a national lockdown from 23rd March to 4th May last year. The on-trade was completely closed, as were most liquor shops in every state. Places of work shut down, so many young office workers left the urban centres. With the on-trade stifled, retail purchases and consumption of beverage alcohol at home became the norm in most mainstream categories. In India, however, women and younger consumers still feel uncomfortable drinking in front of more conservative parents and family members at home. Limitations on space and refrigeration favoured spirits over beer, RTDs and – especially for young urban women – wine, all of which are usually consumed cold.

The implications of the pandemic response for India’s status as a federal republic soon became clear. The importance of excise duty income from alcohol, tobacco and fuel was brought into sharp relief as revenue streams dried up and the diminishing income from national taxes, such as GST, were used to offset fiscal shortfalls at state level. Most states responded by increasing excise duties – often suddenly and steeply – as well as charging taxpayers one-off cess payments, commonly levied by central governments for a specific purpose. Unusually, this cess (tax on tax), commonly levied by central government for a specific and clearly defined purpose (and not shared with state governments), has been applied in a number of instances at state level as a Corona-cess. Some states have been more reluctant than others to review, reduce or cancel such supposedly temporary measures. For instance, Andhra Pradesh – where the government had tried to enforce prohibition before the pandemic – imposed a 75% excise duty incre for two days just as the national lockdown ended last May; and on the same day, Delhi imposed a 70% cess on the maximum retail price (MRP) of all liquor, which remained until 7th June.

The timing of the lockdown could not have been worse, especially for beer. The category relies on young urban drinkers and after-work occasions and its peak season for consumption was about to start. When lockdown ended, bars and restaurants re-opened in most states, but were limited to 50% occupancy, and workers were slower to return to offices. Many are still working from home or – during Q1 2021 – have returned to it.

Compared to some countries, where citizens often remained risk-averse and pessimistic after the first lockdown, Indian consumer confidence seemed to bounce back quickly. Many Indians assumed – wrongly – that their everyday hygiene challenges afforded them a high degree of natural immunity to the coronavirus.

The past year has confirmed that India is squarely a brown spirits market. Whisky absorbs two-thirds of consumption in this market; brandy – with a strong presence in the south – takes 20%; and rum takes around half of that. In a total market that has shrunk by around one-fifth, whisky declined only slightly less than brandy and rum, which fell around one-quarter. Beer and RTDs suffered precipitous falls, deprived of many of the venues and occasions that had driven consumption forward. All clear spirits witnessed steeper declines in consumption than dark spirits: in each category, sales of domestically produced brands bottled in India (BII) fell away faster. Even allowing for the experimentation evident in categories such as Irish whiskey, consumers sought out brands that they knew, had earned equity and had consistent quality. In short, they sought out certainties.

Two other fundamental shifts have also occurred. Firstly, the premiumisation trend – evident before the pandemic – saw some importers shift their focus to retail, increasing its offering of high-end brands, which were previously targetted at Duty-Free and at the on-trade. Disposable income spent on going out to eat and drink before the pandemic was instead often redirected to premium-and-above products for at-home consumption. Secondly, as a corollary to this and confirming the pressure on the mainstream, was down-trading out of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), either bottled in origin (BIO) or BII.

Budget-conscious consumers instead chose either country liquor or illicit alternatives, having long been deprived of licensed outlets in which to purchase their nips.

The on-trade closure has also impacted routes to market and the supply chain and it increasingly determines choice. When all outlets closed, some states permitted home delivery, which many thought heralded the long-expected rise of the e-commerce channel. In reality, this was an expedient option for retail outlets: e-commerce has not seen a consequent increase in regulation or investment since. On the contrary, drinks ordering apps, such as Hipbar, appear to have been actively discouraged.

The effects of a six-week shutdown of alcohol supply lasted long after it ended: restocking and logistics issues extended out-of-stock occurrences well into the summer months. Importers often found it difficult to source supplies as exporters were reluctant to ship to trading partners in an uncertain economy, not least because they wanted to avoid passing on rising logistics costs to consumers.

One of the responses, driven by leading country liquor suppliers, has been the emergence of intermediate or medium liquor produced locally: this refers to a price band of distilled liquor sold under licensed quota in certain states – presently Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh only – competitively priced between country liquor/IMIL (Indian-made Indian liquor) and IMFL. Commonly the price, set by the state, is at a 25% premium to the country liquor price, a similar proportion lower than IMFL pricing.

This system has the additional benefits of almost guaranteeing state excise income and reducing the occurrence of country liquor-related health issues through better-quality product. In theory, this model should be attractive to many more states. In practice, its implementation may be limited by the relative scarcity of country liquor distillers able to produce medium liquor of the requisite quality. Nevertheless, with investment and a little covert encouragement from the states, that provision will doubtless evolve over time.

In a decentralised India, the domestic beverage alcohol industry relies on a relatively small number of states for its success. The top three states – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal – account for one-third of India’s population. The top six states account for half of the population. West Bengal is the only corporate state: the beverage alcohol industry is regulated directly through a state body. By contrast, the five largest states in the south are each home to beverage alcohol corporations.

This complexity and large size of India means that there are very few companies that are truly national. Even those that are considered national – thanks to a contract bottling network – still retain large regional brands in their portfolios. There is a small number of multinationals twinning domestic production with imports that are focussed on urban distribution shared among importers and wholesalers. India has a larger number of local distillers aspiring to convert their regional origins into a multi-region or national presence; and there are many smaller distillers, the majority of whom supply locally. Most distillers, therefore, will only be trading in one or two jurisdictions and navigating one or two bureaucracies. For the larger players, these challenges are manifold.

The second half of 2020 saw the Indian beverage alcohol market emerging quickly and largely unscathed from Covid-19 and lockdown. Leading spirits companies in particular were reporting quarterly revenues and volumes that had recovered to pre-pandemic levels. This was in spite of the on-trade remaining stifled, e-commerce failing to expand and the regulation and excise duty rises imposed by most states. However, by the second quarter of this year – the beginning of the new financial year for most corporations – this initial optimism about rapid recovery has somewhat evaporated.

The picture, though, is mixed. India’s federal state model shows up the inconsistencies between states: decisions can often be arbitrary, poorly thought through and political rather than practical, but a successful model in one state can be swiftly adopted in another. On the one hand, the Delhi state government’s legislation lowering the legal drinking age from 25 to 21 is positive for the industry. On the other, Andhra Pradesh will join Bihar, Gujarat and some other smaller states and territories to prohibit alcohol for around 250m people, which is nearly one-fifth of the population.

It cannot be overstated how the pandemic and its effects demonstrated the importance of beverage alcohol revenues to individual states’ budgets. Some state governments recognise this and are approaching their beverage alcohol policy with pragmatism by listening to the industry more attentively.

The key issues revolve around the temporary and permanent changes brought about by the pandemic. Office work may have changed permanently, calling into question whether or not urban on-trade lighthouse accounts will recover. It is uncertain when occupancy rates in on-trade venues rise above the current 50% constraint. The medium liquor system may see expansion into further states. It is also questionable whether premiumisation will persist or the second Covid-19 wave will dent consumer confidence fundamentally.

The wider economy, of course, is a determining factor. Declining disposable income has particular relevance for beverage alcohol spend. The industry is circumscribed by its investment in advertising and promotion. The pandemic has sharpened the senses of many executives and players, but left others close to collapse, unable to survive further uncertain events. States have pursued short-term solutions throughout the pandemic and it is unknown if this approach will persist. However, it is likely that the distilling capacity of the domestic industry will not grow. This has implications for all, given the contract-bottling model that has enabled the largest players to become truly national.

General Forecast Assumptions

On-Trade – In some states, the on-trade had re-opened up to 85% of its former capacity by Q1 2021. However, the occupancy restriction to 50% remains, so the real throughput is also likely to be at 50%. This will continue to affect beer and RTDs. Furthermore, on-trade sub-channels are re-opening at different rates.

Restaurants opened faster than bars; and bars faster than night venues. Whilst this appears to affect wine and premium spirits in higher-end outlets, the impact will be mitigated by the flexibility of suppliers, many of whom have switched attention to retail and targetting wealthier consumers.

Medium Liquor – Consumers in some states are now being offered a wider choice. Those who had traded down to country liquor may choose medium liquor instead of IMFL. Currently this is available in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, but more states may institute this. A significant number of consumers may prefer the taste and the brands on offer in the category to IMFL.

E-commerce – When three of the larger eastern states – West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkand – permitted home delivery of alcohol, it was thought e-commerce would, at last, be stimulated by the lockdown conditions. They were soon joined by Orissa and Maharashtra. However, steep delivery charges, regulatory uncertainty, a reluctance to invest and a poor delivery-logistics framework continue to hamper growth, as well as the nature of Indian e-commerce defined on the invitation issued by the West Bengal authorities as “handling the electronic ordering, purchase, sale and home delivery of alcoholic liquors from licensed food [and liquor] outlets”. Retail competitors required to pay for annual licences have lobbied against the channel as well. Some significant platforms – Amazon, Flipkart (Walmart), Big Basket, Swiggy, Zomato and the mobile app Hipbar, reportedly backed by Diageo and, in Mumbai, Living Liquidz – responded to state-level invitations to get involved after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of home delivery from licensed retail. However, it has become clear that any bureaucratic encouragement of home delivery has primarily been one of a range of responses to the crowds that gathered outside liquor shops last year and, while recurring lockdowns may help to accelerate e-commerce, the channel will not significantly impact the industry for the foreseeable future. Informal delivery, where customers call up the liquor store and get an order dropped off by moped, already existed and will continue.

Regulation – Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, had previously imposed a cess of 20 per bottle of beer. West Bengal, the fourth most populous state, increased consumer tax by 30%. Rajasthan, the sixth most populous, enacted both, adding20 per bottle and imposing a 10% increase in consumer tax. Their approach is unlikely to change. Additionally, the election in Bihar state did not return a government willing to reverse prohibition. Andhra Pradesh’s government was unable to enact prohibition but has discouraged some national players by making trading there problematic. However, it is assumed there is no foreseeable regulatory movement throughout the forecast period.

Consumer Base Expansion – India’s population is approaching 1.4bn, with less than half being of legal drinking age. The actual number of alcohol consumers is believed to be closer to 160m, only 7.5% of whom are women. Per capita rates for beer and RTDs remain low at around 1.2 litres for men and 150ml for women, re-calculated at 10 litres and 1.25 litres on estimated drinking population numbers. Wine has similar rates to RTDs, spirits are 1.8 litres per capita and nearly 15 litres on a re-calculated basis. There are more younger consumers joining the potential drinking population every year. Uptake by women reportedly increased during the pandemic.

At-Home Consumption – This trend is likely to persist beyond the pandemic. Wealthier consumers of premium spirits and imports spend for indulging at home and for gifts. The wedding industry will revive: most wine suppliers are focussing on higher-end offerings, educating consumers about its accessibility and suitability during meals, as well as drinking before and after. Beer and RTDs will find difficulty switching as their core message is based on going out and socialising rather than at-home consumption, and most consumers have insufficient refrigeration space at home.

Key Market Factors

Cultural – The legal drinking age varies from state to state. In most states it is 21, but 25 in the populous states of Haryana and the Punjab. In Maharashtra it is 21 for beer and wine, and 25 for liquor. Bigger states with a drinking age of 18 include Rajasthan in the north and Kerala in the south. Delhi is about to lower its LDA from 25 to 21.

Three states with larger populations prohibit alcohol. Gujarat has been dry for the longest, with Bihar and now Andhra Pradesh having imposed prohibition more recently. Outcomes are mixed, with Bihar and Andhra Pradesh reportedly having some of the highest per capita consumption rates for beverage alcohol nationally once illicit alcohol is factored in.

Demographic – A key driver of consumption has been urbanisation, particularly among younger LDA drinkers. The lockdown appears to have reversed this, with young office workers returning to their parents’ houses in smaller cities, towns and the countryside.

The overall population is nearly 1.4bn and grows by 15–20m or more every year. The drinking population is considerably smaller: at least half can only afford very cheap country liquor, which is largely unbranded alcohol with an estimated market of 250–285m cases.

The rapidly growing middle classes, who can afford premium-and-above, may number more than 150m. However, 98% of middle-class women and more than 20% of men are said not to drink for philosophical, religious or cultural reasons.

Some 49% of the population is aged under 19, and few drink, although younger consumers are generally more willing to consume alcohol than many of their parents. This leaves a market of between 25m and 30m people with the inclination and resources to drink IMFL.

Economic – There is little state support in India and wellbeing is the individual’s responsibility. With livelihoods uncertain but a young population inclined to optimism, the second Covid-19 wave may hit confidence hard and a volatile economy will see more cautious expenditure. Excise rates vary substantially from state to state even before the pandemic, which exacerbated the difference when states imposed cess payments to make up fiscal shortfalls.

A number of observers mention a shift to modern retail. This is consistent with state governments looking to secure the revenues they can expect from beverage alcohol and also with consumer expectations around improving retail venues.

Trade – Difficulties with the supply of stock have been widespread. It is reported that lack of supply inhibited sales, especially of premium products. The pandemic hindered logistics and rendered delivery more expensive. Brand-owner allocations have also reduced the agility to respond to demand.

A further element is that the phenomenon of medium liquor in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh offers more settled revenue for states and gives consumers an alternative to IMFL. One leading country liquor supplier reports now selling twice as much medium liquor as it does country liquor per month. India is unusual in that spirits demand is significantly more developed than demand for beer. While there is some interplay between the two with bang-for-buck consumers keen to maximise alcohol content per rupee delivery, there were some signs that demand for beer was beginning to develop separately.

However, strong beers of 8.5% ABV still represent more than 82% of demand. The first lockdown also affected trade, and was both severe and ill-timed – six weeks without sales, just before peak season for beer and RTDs. The on-trade revived in the second half of 2020 with near full re-opening in some states, but night and weekend curfews, combined with 50% capacity limits, continue to constrain this channel. The uncertainty of lockdown and the unavailability of liquor drove some consumers back down to country liquor, although not in the south where it is banned in five large states.

There was more limited up-trading by wealthier consumers. However, mainstream products, brands and players have been affected with some of the less financially secure domestic players closing for some months. In some of the larger states, competition in the beverage alcohol category is relatively open. In more there are state corporations set up as wholesalers and frequently as retailers too. In all states, beverage alcohol participants must navigate a web of licences, quotas and taxes, and sometimes incentives.

In certain key states, the regulatory authorities that control pricing have rationalised their price lists. In Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana the correction has been downwards for higher-priced imports.

It is reported that there is shift to modern retail. This is consistent with state governments looking to secure revenues from beverage alcohol and also with consumer expectations around improving retail venues.

Political – Breweries have been investigated by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) which has now resulted in fines for collusion and operating a cartel. The reputational impact is more serious than the financial cost.

India and Australia sign an interim trade deal

The India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (“IndAus ECTA”) was signed by Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, Government of India and Mr. Dan Tehan, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Government of Australia in a virtual ceremony, in the presence of Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Scott Morrison recently.
In his opening remarks during the Joint Press Conference with Mr. Dan Tehan after the signing in ceremony, Shri Goyal said the Australia – India ECTA truly symbolises our Ekta (Unity) & the spirit of cooperation. Terming it a historic day for India, as it is the 1st agreement with a developed country after a decade, Shri Goyal said our relationship rests on the pillars of trust & reliability, aptly reflected in our deepening geostrategic engagement through the Quad & Supply Chain Resilience Initiative.

Stating that India and Australia are natural partners, connected by shared values of democracy, rule of law & transparency apart from our shared love for Cricket, Food & Movies, Shri Goyal said Ind-Aus ECTA is expected to almost double bilateral trade to about $50 billion in five years. He said there is great potential for Indian exports in sectors like textiles & apparel, leather, hospitality, gems & jewelry, engineering goods & pharma, IT, Startups etc. Australia has committed to key areas of India’s interest in Services like Education, IT, Business, Professional Services, and Health & Audio-visual while Australia will also provide Post-study work visas for students, the quota for Chefs & Yoga instructors, and Work & Holiday visas for young professionals.

Tariffs will be eliminated on more than 85% of Australian goods exports to India (valued at more than $12.6 billion a year), rising to almost 91% (valued at $13.4 billion) over 10 years.

Australian households and businesses will also benefit, with 96% of Indian goods imports entering Australia duty-free on entry into force.

India is the world’s largest democracy and the world’s fastest-growing major economy, with GDP projected to grow at 9% in 2021-22 and 2022-23 and 7.1% in 2023-24.

Shri Goyal said the Agreement provides adequate safeguards to prevent circumvention, fuse to protect against sudden surge in import of goods; for the 1st time, mechanism included for compulsory review after 15 years. Underlining that the Ind-Aus ECTA will not only herald a new era of trade & commercial ties, but also take the relationship between our nations to greater heights. Shri Goyal said he will be visiting Australia in the coming days, to take the ECTA to people.

Like true brothers, both nations supported each other during Covid-19. Ind-Aus ECTA covers the entire gamut of the trade & commercial relations, removing trade barriers & opening a plethora of opportunities in both goods & services. Expected that with ECTA, the present bilateral trade for merchandise & services of $27.5 bn (2021), may reach a level of about $45 to $50 billion in the next five years.

It is expected to create new employment opportunities, raise living standards and enhance the overall welfare of the peoples of both the countries. Additional employment generation is expected to be 10 lakhs within the next five years.
Australian wine exporters, however, will have to wait for the full benefits, with tariffs on wine bottles with a minimum import price of US$15 expected to reduce from 150% to 75% when the agreement enters into force. This tariff will then reduce to 25% over 10 years.

Tariffs on wine with a minimum import price of $5 per bottle will be reduced from 150% to 100% on entry into force and subsequently to 50% over 10 years.

In services, Australia has offered 135 sub-sectors to India, while India offered 103 sub-sectors to Australia. Adequate safeguards have been provided to prevent circumvention or diversion of goods from any non-party. Provision for bilateral safeguard measures to protect against a sudden surge in import of goods. For the 1st time, a clause is introduced for a special review mechanism that provides for compulsory review after 15 years in a time-bound manner.

“The IndAus ECTA, encompassing trade in goods and services, is a balanced and equitable trade agreement, which will further cement the already deep, close and strategic relations between the two countries and will significantly enhance the bilateral trade in goods and services, create new employment opportunities, raise living standards and improve the general welfare of the peoples of the two countries,” the commerce ministry said recently in a press release.

In 2020, India was Australia’s seventh-largest trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $24.3 billion, and sixth largest goods and services export market, valued at $16.9 billion. Our Government’s goal is to lift India into our top three export markets by 2035, and to make India the third largest destination in Asia for outward Australian investment.

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI ECTA) signed recently will further strengthen that relationship.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the agreement would create enormous trade diversification opportunities for Australian producers and service providers bound for India, valued at up to $14.8 billion each year.

“This agreement opens a big door into the world’s fastest growing major economy for Australian farmers, manufacturers, producers and so many more,” the Prime Minister said.

“By unlocking the huge market of around 1.4 billion consumers in India, we are strengthening the economy and growing jobs right here at home.

“This is great news for lobster fishers in Tasmania, wine producers in South Australia, macadamia farmers in Queensland, critical minerals miners in Western Australia, lamb farmers from New South Wales, wool producers from Victoria and metallic ore producers from the Northern Territory.

Benefits of AI ECTA include:

Sheep meat tariffs of 30% will be eliminated on entry into force, providing a boost for Australian exports that already command nearly 20% of India’s market.

Wool will have the current 2.5% tariffs eliminated on entry into force, supporting Australia’s second-largest market for wool products.

Tariffs on wine with a minimum import price of US$5 per bottle will be reduced from 150% to 100% on entry into force and subsequently to 50% over 10 years (based on Indian wholesale price index for wine).

Tariffs on wine bottles with minimum import price of US$15 will be reduced from 150% to 75% on entry into force and subsequently to 25% over 10 years (based on Indian wholesale price index for wine).

Tariffs up to 30% on avocados, onions, broad, kidney and adzuki beans, cherries, shelled pistachios, macadamias, cashews in-shell, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants will be eliminated over seven years.

Tariffs on almonds, lentils, oranges, mandarins, pears, apricots and strawberries will be reduced, improving opportunities for Australia’s horticulture industry to supply India’s growing food demand.

The resources sector will benefit from the elimination of tariffs on entry into force for coal, alumina, metallic ores, including manganese, copper and nickel; and critical minerals including titanium and zirconium.

LNG tariffs will be bound at 0% at entry into force.

Tariffs on pharmaceutical products and certain medical devices will be eliminated over five and seven years.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said AI ECTA would also further strengthen the people-to-people links between our countries. India was Australia’s third largest market for services exports in 2020.

“This agreement will turbocharge our close, long-standing and highly complementary economic relationship in areas such as critical minerals, professional services, education and tourism,” Mr Tehan said.

“It will create new opportunities for jobs and businesses in both countries, while laying the foundations for a full free trade agreement.”

Both countries will facilitate the recognition of professional qualifications, licensing, and registration procedures between professional services bodies in both countries.

Australian services suppliers in 31 sectors and sub-sectors will be guaranteed to receive the best treatment accorded by India to any future free trade agreement partner, including in: higher education and adult education; business services (tax, medical and dental, architectural and urban planning; research and development; communication, construction and engineering; insurance and banking; hospital; audio-visual; and tourism and travel.

Australia will also provide new access for young Indians to participate in working holidays in Australia. Places in Australia’s Work and Holiday programme will be set at 1,000 per year and Australia will have two years to implement the outcome. This is expected to contribute to both workforce requirements and to boost tourism to support our post-Covid recovery.

In a boost to our STEM and IT workforces, the length of stay for an Indian Student with a bachelor’s degree with first class honours will be extended from two to three years post study in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors.

Australia and India have also agreed to undertake cooperation to promote agricultural trade as part of the agreement and will now work toward concluding an enhanced agricultural Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Mr Tehan signed AI ECTA on behalf of Australia during a virtual ceremony with India’s Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs & Food & Public Distribution and Textiles, Piyush Goyal, attended by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison and Narendra Modi.

This announcement builds on the Morrison Government’s $280 million investment to further grow economic relationship and support jobs and businesses in both countries, that includes:

$35.7 million to support cooperation on research, production and commercialisation of clean technologies, critical minerals and energy;

$25.2 million to deepen space cooperation with India and $28.1 million to launch a Centre for Australia-India Relations.

AI ECTA is an interim agreement and both countries continue to work towards a full Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

Diageo India reports continued growth momentum, thanks to premiumisation

In the unaudited third quarter, Diageo India has registered an increase in net sales of 15.9%, reflecting a strong quarter driven by resilient consumer demand in the off-trade channel, continued premiumisation and recovery of the on-trade channel. Underlying net sales increased 14.3%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch.

Diageo India said that the Prestige & Above segment net sales grew 20.0%, with strong double-digit growth in our scotch portfolio. However, Popular segment net sales declined 1.7%, while priority states were flat. The Gross margin was 44.1%, down 49bps on a reported basis, driven by input cost inflation, partially offset by favourable product mix and productivity savings. Adjusting the one-off sale of bulk scotch, underlying gross margin was 44.3%, down 31bps.

Ms Hina Nagarajan, CEO, commenting on the quarter and nine months ended 31 Dec. 2021 said, “We have delivered a strong quarter, continuing the growth momentum amidst rising inflation. The broad-based growth in the Prestige & Above segment demonstrates the strength of our portfolio, and the continued agility and resilience of the team. We launched the second limited edition of Epitome Reserve Craft Whiskey, a Peated Indian Single Malt. We continued to expand distribution of the renovated Black Dog Scotch, Signature Whiskey and our innovation offering of Royal Challenge American Pride Whiskey.

We also launched ‘In.thebar.com’ this quarter, our digital platform to drive focussed consumer engagement and celebrations.

Healthy operating cash flow has enabled us to reach debt free status as on Dec.31st 2021. CRISIL upgraded its rating on United Spirits Limited’s long-term bank facilities to ‘AAA / Stable’ while reaffirming its ‘A1+’ rating on the short-term bank facilities.

External operating environment in the near-term will remain challenging, including potential impact from Covid-19 and rising cost inflation. We continue to work with agility and remain focussed on strengthening our portfolio while driving productivity across the value chain. We remain confident in the market potential and continue to stay focussed on our strategic priorities to drive long-term value creation for all our stakeholders.”

The Reported EBITDA was Rs. 491 Crores, up 27.9% and the reported EBITDA margin was 17.0%, up 159 bps, primarily driven by operating leverage on fixed costs. It said that Interest includes a one-off non-debt related charge. Underlying interest was Rs. 16 Crores, down 56.8% driven by reduced debt and lower interest rates.

The profit after tax was Rs. 291 Crores, up 26.7% and PAT margin was 10.1%.

Nine month’s performance highlights:

The reported net sales increased 22.6%, lapping soft prior year comparators. Growth was underpinned by strong consumer demand in the off-trade, premiumisation trend and continued momentum in at-home consumption occasions. Underlying net sales increased 21.9%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch.

The Prestige & Above segment net sales increased 26.9%, lapping soft comparators and favourable product mix. The popular segment net sales increased 11.0%, while the priority states increased 10%. The Gross margin was 44.3%, up 113bps, primarily driven by favourable product mix, productivity savings from everyday cost efficiencies and lapping a one-off inventory provision. It said marketing investment was up 24.9% as the company lapped a reduction in promotional activity during the same period last year due to Covid-19. Marketing reinvestment rate was 8.0% of reported net sales.

The reported EBITDA was Rs. 1,084 Crores, up 88.2% and the reported EBITDA margin was 15.6%, up 544 bps primarily due to recovery in gross margin, operating leverage and lapping one-off costs in the prior year. Excluding the one-off items, underlying EBITDA was up 430 bps.

The reported interest cost was Rs. 52 Crores, down 62.3% driven by debt, interest rate reduction and a net reversal benefit of non-debt related interest charge. Exceptional items include a one-off provision towards an additional demand in relation to a historical customer dispute and tax includes a one-off reversal of 19.2 Crores.

The profit after tax was Rs. 634 Crores, up 343.2% and PAT margin was 9.1%.

United Spirits Ltd reports 27% PAT for third quarter

United Spirits Ltd (USL) has reported a 27 % year-on-year surge in profit after tax (PAT) for the third quarter of financial year 2021-22, which came in at Rs. 291 Crore, up from a Rs. 230 crore during the same period last year.

The PAT margin in Q3 FY22 was 10.1%, the company said. In a press release attached with the quarterly results, USL said it reached “debt-free status” by December 31, 2021, due to its “healthy operating cash flow”. The reported net sales in the three-month period ending December 2021 increased to Rs. 2,885 Crore, marking a 15.9% YoY jump.

The surge was driven by resilient consumer demand in the off trade channel, continued premiumisation and recovery of the on-trade channel, USL said. Underlying net sales increased by 14.3%, excluding the one-off sale of bulk scotch, it added.

“Prestige & Above segment net sales grew 20%, with strong double-digit growth in our scotch portfolio,” the company said. Popular segment net sales, however, declined by 1.7%.

The earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA) came in at Rs. 491 Crore, which was 27.9% higher as compared to the year-ago period. The EBITDA margin came in at 17%, up 159 bps, primarily driven by operating leverage on fixed costs.

“We upweighted our investment in marketing to support strategic priorities and on-going demand growth initiatives,” USL said.

Gross profit came in at Rs. 1,273 Crore, as compared to Rs. 1,082 Crore in the second quarter. Gross profit margin was 44.1%, down 49 bps on a reported basis, driven by input cost inflation, and “partially offset by favourable product mix and productivity savings”, USL said.

Diageo India chief executive officer Hina Nagarajan, while commenting on USL’s Q3 performance, said “external operating environment in the near-term will remain challenging, including potential impact from Covid-19 and rising cost inflation”.

“We continue to work with agility and remain focussed on strengthening our portfolio while driving productivity across the value chain. We remain confident in the market potential and continue to stay focussed on our strategic priorities to drive long-term value creation for all our stakeholders,” the CEO added.

The operations remained broadly normal for the quarter with sentiment gradually inching up seen in improved mobility and strong festive period helped demand. While input cost pressures continue, the global supply chains remain disrupted with port congestion and container availability issues. However, efforts, it said, are on to ramp up of innovation and renovation agenda, premiumisation trends continue, launched digital platform In.thebar.com during the quarter. It said it aligned itself with the new policies in Delhi and West Bengal, and tax rationalisation on BIO spirits in Maharashtra and West Bengal.

On the outlook, it said it was aiming to retain current demand momentum despite challenging near-term environment, expanding on new productivity initiatives, renovated portfolio well placed to benefit from ongoing premiumisation, and final stages of strategic review of popular brands.

‘Nolo’ is soon going to froth in Asia

Specific to Asia, Carlsberg has five brands brewed in China and one in Malaysia, while it has made its presence felt in Hong Kong and Singapore markets, it is now keen on expanding to other markets in the region. Alcohol free segment accounted for the largest revenue size of USD 2 billion in 2017 owing to the increasing adoption of healthier lifestyles coupled with the benefits of non-alcoholic beer in China, India, and Japan.

Growing at over 7.5% CAGR

According to a Graphical Research report, the Asia Pacific non-alcoholic beer market size was valued at USD 4.3 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow at over 7.5% CAGR from 2018 to 2024. As of now, China is leading in this segment in Asia and the drivers are the adoption of a healthy lifestyle along with shifting consumer preferences towards ‘Nolo’. The report said that increasing awareness for negative health effects of alcohol consumption is among major factors boosting market penetration.

China holds nearly 30% market share in ‘Nolo’

China holds nearly 30% share in launching new non-alcoholic beer products. As mentioned earlier, Carlsberg has four brands – WuSu Fresh Orange & C; WuSu Pineapple & C; Xixia Fresh Orange & C; Xixia Pineapple & C, and Chongqing Beer AFB in China and Carlsberg Alcohol Free in Singapore and Hong Kong while in Malaysia it vends Nutrimalt which is said to be nonalcoholic malt beverage that is nourishing and packed with vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin C & B complex. It is said to be a great energy booster after a workout.

Manufacturers are launching new beverage brands with different flavours to expand consumer base as it is estimated that there is a sizable market which is looking at healthy brews. An increased attention on both physical and mental health has been cited as a cause of the growth of nolo products, which are increasingly popular among younger consumers.

However, in India the trend is not that perceptible, though non alcoholic brews are making the rounds, mostly propped by young beer drinkers who are either switching from standard beers to non-alcoholic variants or they are willing to taste new beers, both with alcohol or no or low alcohol content ones.

India sees slow but steady growth

Some of the ‘Nolo’ in India include Budweiser 0.0%; Heineken 0.0% non alcoholic lager beer; Kingfisher Ultra non-alcoholic beer; Hoegaarden 0.0% non-alcoholic beer; Kingfisher Radler – non-alcoholic malt drink; Coolberg Cranberry non-alcoholic beer; Crofters non-alcoholic beer; and Barbican. Carlsberg is said to be exploring the market opportunity in India with regard to ‘Nolo’. But it has been steadfast in its commitment to creating a culture of responsible drinking by promoting moderate consumption of products and addressing alcohol-related harm in society. “We therefore aim to celebrate the positive aspects of moderate beer consumption and to position beer as a relevant and responsible choice with a role to play in the ‘good life’ to which modern consumers aspire.”

Young beer drinkers call the shots

As per a survey by Mintel about 40% of young beer drinkers in India are interested in switching from standard-strength beer to low calorie or non alcoholic variants of the brew. The survey pointed out that internet users who were contacted and who had consumed beer in the past six months were interested in exploring alternatives to beer.

Carlsberg’s ‘Sail’ strategy

Carlsberg has set sail for the next five-year journey with its 2016 ‘Sail’ strategy. Since its launch, ‘Sail’ 27 has been providing a clear overall direction for Carlsberg resulting in a healthy and strong company. The company said that “In developing Sail 27, we have aimed at keeping and sharpening our strong strategic, organisational and financial dynamics while ensuring that our direction-setting was refreshed and that our new strategy reflects expected consumer, customer, societal, regulatory, economic and geopolitical trends.”


The Chief Executive Officer Cees ‘t Hart said, “SAIL’27 is the exciting next step in the evolution of Carlsberg. Co-created by a large group of employees and leaders, and built around our purpose, SAIL’27 has clear choices for brands, categories, markets and capabilities, and steps up our ambitions for top- and bottom-line growth.” In essence, SAIL’27 focusses on five strategic levers – portfolio, geographies, execution, culture and funding the journey – for which the company has made distinct strategic choices, defining the focus of our efforts and resource allocation.


Our strategic levers and choices should be viewed as an integrated set of activities that together will drive value for all stakeholders. “SAIL’27 is built around our purpose of brewing for a better today and tomorrow, and our ambition of being the most successful, professional, and attractive brewer in our markets,” Cees ‘t Hart adds.

Collaborative effort 


SAIL’27 is a collaborative, company-wide effort, co-created by over 200 Carlsberg employees from more than 30 different markets. “Talents, experts and leaders from all over Carlsberg Group have brought their day-to-day knowledge and fresh ideas into this new strategy. They have assessed the impact of the current strategy on their local business or function, shared learnings and trends they see impacting the business and challenged our thinking on the future strategy. By bringing such a diverse set of voices the process we have created an even stronger strategic path for Carlsberg,” says Marcela Linke, Director, Group Strategy. 

Carlsberg said that the beer category continues to offer attractive long-term volume and value growth opportunities, though with different growth dynamics between categories and markets. Our portfolio choices target these growth opportunities. In addition, the company sees further attractive growth opportunities for selected categories beyond beer. Today, the Group has attractive widespread geographical presence and no. 1 or 2 positions in 22 markets across Western Europe, Asia and Central & Eastern Europe. While market dynamics are different in the three regions, they all offer appealing long-term revenue and earnings growth opportunities.

Carlsberg ‘Nolo’ brands grow by 11%


Carlsberg’s recent financial statement revealed its ‘Nolo’ brands grew by 11%, making it one of the most successful areas of the business for the brewing giant. While sales of other household names owned by Carlsberg shrunk (namely Tuborg and the Carlsberg brand itself), the ‘nolo’ range demonstrated quite a sizeable growth, which is perhaps indicative of a shift in consumer habits towards alcohol-free beverages.


Carlsberg said it saw good results for its recent launches in the category, including Baltika Zero Grapefruit and Raspberry, Brooklyn Special Effects and Somersby 0.0. In addition, the brewing group entered the Asian market with similar ‘nolo’ products in 2020 too, with the launch of Chongqing Beer AFB in China and Carlsberg Alcohol Free in Singapore and Hong Kong.

What’s driving ‘nolo’ growth?


“Brewers have had to adapt to unprecedented market conditions and one area of success is Carlsberg’s low-ABV or alcohol-free ‘nolo’ brands, which are notable for 11% growth as consumers continue to moderate their alcohol intake,” said Ryan Whittaker, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData.

“Increased health consciousness, which includes both physical and mental health concerns, is causing many to reduce their alcohol intake, and the pandemic has brought all of this to the fore.”


According to GlobalData, 28% of global consumers claim to be buying less beer during the pandemic and approximately 27% of consumers say that they are extremely concerned about their physical health. What’s interesting is that these trends correlate with age, with millennials being both the most extremely concerned about their health and most likely to be buying less beer than before the pandemic. Even otherwise, the millennials are known to experiment, try out new products and that is driving manufacturers to innovate.

The Macallan unveils The Reach Single Malt Whisky

The Macallan has unveiled The Reach, an incomparable single malt whisky that reflects an extraordinary moment in time and exemplifies the enduring spirit that has been at the heart of the brand for almost 200 years.

Crafted during the Second World War in a period of increasing hardship, The Reach was laid to rest in 1940 before The Macallan was compelled to close its doors for the first time in its history.

Its very existence is testament to the care and commitment to uncompromised excellence that has driven The Macallan since it was founded in 1824. It also pays tribute to those who strived amid great adversity to resume distilling The Macallan’s spirit, as well as the crafts people today who continue to uphold the brand’s values.

A rare single malt at 81 Years Old, The Reach is the oldest whisky ever released by The Macallan, crafted from a single, sherry seasoned oak cask. The dark, precious whisky is encased in an exquisite decanter created from mouth-blown, hot glass, cradled on a bronze sculpture of three hands.

Each hand represents characters in The Macallan’s history and their unique story. One commemorates the Distillery workers of 1940 who crafted the spirit into existence, in challenging times, over eight decades ago. Another is the hand of one-time chairman, Allan Shiach, whose grandfather headed the company when this remarkable spirit was first consigned to its cask. The third is that of today’s Master Whisky Maker, Kirsteen Campbell, who carefully selected the 1940 cask used to create The Reach, deciding that now was the time to share this precious whisky with the world.

Kirsteen Campbell, Master Whisky Maker, The Macallan, said, “It is an honour to introduce The Reach. Created during a turbulent time in the world, this extraordinary expression showcases The Macallan’s history, ingenuity and unmistakable strength of character.

“The creation of many hands, The Reach has been a truly collaborative effort. It’s also a tribute to the people who made this precious whisky, and their enduring spirit which never wavered.

“Its deep auburn hue is the first hint of this remarkable whisky’s astonishing depth. Offering notes of dark chocolate, sweet cinnamon and aromatic peat, leading on to treacle toffee, crystalised ginger and charred pineapple, before giving way to an intensely rich, sweet and smoky finish.”

Reflecting its rarity and significance, The Reach is presented in unique packaging brought together by a collective of Scottish artisans. A tale of collaboration and connectivity, the result is a handcrafted quartet of liquid, glass, bronze and wood that is a fitting tribute to this very special whisky.

Sculptor Saskia Robinson created the timeless sculpture featuring three hands, producing countless drawings from every perspective before working in a physical medium. The veins, nails and skin detail are recorded in extraordinary accuracy, modelled on an artist’s impression of a hand of one of those original still men. The sculpture is cast in bronze and the glimmer of the metal contrasts beautifully with the amber whisky.

The surface of the glass decanter features subtle indentations that match the fingerprints of the bronze hands which support it, while a beautiful cabinet crafted using wood from an alien elm tree, which is thought to have been on The Macallan Estate in 1940, houses the decanter.

A film has been created by renowned London-based photographer Nadav Kander working closely with his art director, Matt Willey, who was previously the art director at The New York Times Magazine. Featuring original music composed and recorded by Scottish band Mogwai, recently shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize, it tells the story of The Macallan’s legacy and the collaborative process behind The Reach.

Highly limited to only 288 decanters worldwide, The Reach will be on display at The Macallan Estate Boutique from 9th February 2022 and later in The Macallan domestic and travel retail Boutiques. The RSP is $125,000/£92,000/€110,000.

No discounts or offers on Alcohol in Delhi says Excise Department

Following complaints of congestion outside vents and the ongoing danger of COVID-19, the excise commissioner of Delhi advised liquor outlets in the city on Monday to cease giving discounts and rebates on alcohol brands. In an order, the government urged licensees to stop offering concessions, rebates, or discounts and threatened action against shops that did.

Crowds were observed thronging the vends as booze stores offered discounts and incentives such as ‘buy one get one free.’ There were also reports of law-and-order difficulties, and police were sent in to quell the mob. People in Jagatpuri, where a liquor store refused discounts, had lately resorted to throwing stones, breaking the shop’s glass panes, and injuring the employees.

“It has been brought to the notice of the excise department that as a result of discounts being offered by the licensees through their retail vends, instances were reported of large crowds gathering outside the liquor stores leading to law-and-order problems and causing inconvenience to locals,” the order by the excise commissioner stated.

As a result of liquor retailers lowering prices on various brands of alcohol by up to 40%, many consumers began acquiring and storing significant quantities, believing that the programmes would be discontinued at the end of the current fiscal year. According to the ruling, the Excise Department also learned that the programmes and discounts given at liquor stores were contributing to “unhealthy” market practises. The Covid pandemic is not ended, and the risk of infection remains, according to the directive, which adds that large crowds are expected to exacerbate the issue in Delhi.

“Commissioner Excise hereby orders that all L7Z licensees shall neither give concession, rebate or discount on the maximum retail price of liquor and hereby directs all L7Z licensees to strictly abide by Rule 54(3) of Delhi Excise Rules 2010. If any such instance of discount/rebate/ concession is brought to the knowledge of the undersigned, action as per Rules and Act as well as penal action as per tender document will be taken against defaulting licensees,” read the order.

The intent of the government in allowing discounts by retailers was to promote consumer choice and healthy competition and determination of price by market forces, it said. “The discounting of this nature was not the objective of the government while permitting the discounts in the new excise regime. The licensees are seen indulging in various promotional activities through social media and banners, hoardings outside the stores which is a non-permissible activity under the Delhi Excise Act, 2009 and Delhi Excise Rules, 2010.”

Last year, the Delhi Government adopted the Excise Policy 2021-22, as well as the terms and circumstances for the award of several kinds of licences. On November 17, 2021, the policy went into force. According to the Excise Department’s tender document for issuing 849 retail liquor licences, licensees are permitted to provide a rebate/discount/concession on the maximum retail price of liquor set by the Excise Commissioner. According to the ruling, under clause 15.2 of the tender document, the Department of Excise may, in its sole discretion, but without any obligation to do so, update, revise, or supplement the information in the tender document issued last year.

Ambrosia Awards 2021 is like a booster shot to the alcobev industry

The Ambrosia Awards 2021, held on December 17 at Hotel Andaz, New Delhi, was an extraordinary event, held during extraordinary times. The alcobev industry was starved of any networking event for nearly two years with the pandemic in full play. The Ambrosia Awards night came as refreshing breather to an industry which needed all the booster shots it could get. The Ambrosia Awards and the day-long Indspirit 2021 conference provided that perfect platform for the sector to not only network, but also to strategise going forward.

It was a packed awards night. There was one common refrain among the award winners as they were delighted to win as it endorsed and encouraged their efforts in keeping the focus of the industry going through resilience, strategising differently, innovation and above all the ‘never say die’ spirit.

That spirit was summed by the Ambrosia Business Leader of the Year 2021, Mr. Abhishek Khaitan, the Managing Director of Radico Khaitan Limited. While thanking Ambrosia for honouring him with the award, he thanked his team for growing the company. “With the team of ours we have been able to create over 15 premium brands in the country including a single malt whisky which is retailing at `1 lakh per bottle. This is a proud moment not only for me, but the entire team at Radico.”

Team spirit echoes at Awards Night

This ‘team spirit’ sentiment echoed through the huge gathering which had descended upon the venue to cheer the alcobev sector. Each of the awardees had a story to tell, even if it was just a ‘thank you’. It was not easy for the esteemed panel of judges who had to sift through so many deserving players. The panel of judges included: Mr. Bernard Schaefer, whisky expert and consultant; Mr. Ajoy Shaw, wine maker and consultant; Mr. Binod K. Maitin, independent consultant; Mr. Graeme Bowie, Scotch whisky expert; and Ms. Sheetal Kadam, wine promoter and consultant; and the judges for the packaging segment were Dr. Santosh Kshirsagar, Dean of J.J. School of Arts; Mr. Pranav Bhide, Sr. Creative Director, Leo Burnett; Mr. Shekar Ambedkar, Head of International Packaging Centre; and Prof. K. Munshi, former Head of Design Department, IIT.

Alcobev industry stands solidly behind the community

It hasn’t been easy for SAP Media Worldwide and its leader, Mr. Trilok Desai, to ensure the success of this event after a couple of postponements which the industry well understood. The Awards Night began with 30 seconds silence in memory of those from the industry who had lost their lives to Covid-19. In his address at the Awards Night, Mr. Trilok Desai talked about how the alcobev industry – be it Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory, Radico Khaitan, Jagatjit and several others – stood solidly behind to help the alcobev community overcome the Covid-19 crisis in whatever way possible. “Now, the worst period in the history of the alcobev industry is over. And we pray that Omicron does not turn out to be that dangerous.”

Mr. Desai was optimistic. There is a positive outlook on all fronts for the alcobev industry including the announcement of industry-friendly policies by the governments of Maharashtra and West Bengal. He singled out the efforts of the Delhi government which has revamped the excise policy and taken government out of the liquor business, a welcome move.

India, a global hub for alcoholic beverages

“India is fast becoming a global hub for alcoholic beverages as many of the world’s biggest brands continue to move to the nation in a bid to sell their products; compete with local distillers and producers. The reason is not far-fetched, India remains the world’s fastest growing major economy and, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country will continue to lead in economic growth at 8.5% in 2022 following an impressive growth of 9.5% in 2021.

All these have been possible with the Indian economy growing at a decent rate of 8.5% with the third largest PPP- purchasing power parity- and over millions of young consumers who have high purchasing power. India’s ever increasing number of high networth individuals (HNIs) is also contributing to the growth of high-end whiskies; scotches and single malts, besides wine. The society is lot more liberal now and has started accepting social drinking culture for the past few years.”

Centre, State now more amenable to industry needs

Mr. Desai mentioned how the alcobev industry has been contributing to almost all the State exchequers and how a few states have had to reverse prohibition within months of enforcing it, given the challenges of the huge revenue losses. The alcobev sector also creates millions of jobs directly and indirectly and contributes in no small measure to the growth of the industry. “The Central and the State governments have started understanding these aspects and several states are responding positively in the interest of the alcobev industry, thanks to the continuous efforts of CIABC; ISWAI; AIBA and AIDA. Let’s give them a big round of applaud for their efforts.”

Changing dynamics

The Indian alcobev industry has become more innovative with more single malts rolling out of the stables, not only concentrating in the Indian market, but have performing well in exports. “More crafted spirits; flavoured spirits; increasing number of gins and several start-ups during the past two years have attracted investors and kept the industry buoyant.”

India’s increased requirement of ethanol blending in petrol of 20% by 2025 to control pollution and reduce the bill on import of oil has fuelled the investment in the sugar and distillery industry for the ethanol production. This will lead to increased employment in the sugar producing states like UP and Maharashtra.

Ambrosia Awards instituted 28 years ago

Talking about Ambrosia Awards per se, he recalled how they were instituted 28 years ago and how over the years it has earned recognition and credibility as it has maintained a strict criteria and parameters for their evaluation. We have been continuously investing in this property over the years.

“The evaluation process is very stringent and the international jury has expressed their satisfaction at the judging process as we maintain strict international standards. The jury is highly reputed and is recognised in their respective fields. They have also been surprised at the quality of products over the last five years. They feel that IMFL products quality is constantly improving and they offer the best value on an average price of 6/7 dollars a bottle.”

While thanking the staff for the success of the event, Mr. Desai mentioned how Ambrosia has come to be one of Asia’s highest circulated wine and spirits magazine and is in its 28th year of publication. It was the first English language magazine launched in Asia in the alcobev sector and we continue to maintain the leadership position. The publication is owned by SAP Media Worldwide Ltd which has several other titles like Asian Photography and International Aerospace, Show Dailies and so on besides many other verticals like conferences, awards etc. In certain segment of the industry like Aerospace & Defense we are the 4th highest circulated magazine in the world and we publish dailies under the title SHOW DAILIES in several countries like Japan; Korea; UK (Farnborough); France (Paris); UAE (Dubai); Singapore and so on during the year.

Over the years, Ambrosia has evolved and has even moved on to publishing the first Coffee Table Book and now the 3rd edition of the Coffee Table Book is under preparation with lot of additions and deletions looking at the continuous changes in the markets.

Mr. Bhavya Desai, Group Head and CEO, talked about how the Ambrosia Awards and Indspirit 2021 conference had been planned to not only stimulate one’s thinking but one’s senses. He mentioned that a record number of entries had come for this year’s awards, despite the many challenges that surfaced due to the pandemic.

Bombay Sapphire launches bar quality ready-to-drink Gin & Tonic

Bombay Sapphire recently announced the launch of Bombay Sapphire & Tonic Ready-to-Drink (RTD), enabling its consumers to now enjoy the world’s number one premium gin as a bar-quality Gin & Tonic serve, no matter where they are. The much-anticipated offering combines the brand’s heralded, vapour-infused London Dry Gin with the perfect balance of tonic water, for a superior taste experience.

Bombay Sapphire has been disrupting the category ever since its iconic blue bottle landed on shelves within a sea of green glass. Now, consumers can prepare themselves for a drink that stays true to the brand’s long-standing commitment to only the finest ingredients with a bar-quality taste.

Bombay Sapphire & Tonic is best enjoyed cold, straight from the fridge and poured over ice with a refreshing squeeze of lime. Whatever the occasion, whether it’s al-fresco events, to intimate gatherings at home, or being on the move, the pre-mix is meticulously crafted to showcase the signature juniper and citrus notes of Bombay Sapphire gin. Aside from its versatility and convenience factor, Bombay Sapphire & TONIC ensures it does not compromise on quality and taste. The perfectly balanced gin’s amalgamation with tonic offers a premium quality cocktail to-go with no artificial flavours or colours added to the final product. The ready-to-drink cocktail cans are sure to become a widely demanded product that is ideal for outdoor gatherings, festivals, beach days, and more.

Adtnu Tiwari, Senior Brand Manager, Premium White Spirits, Bacardi India Private Ltd., expresses his views on the launch, “Bombay Sapphire is known for stirring creativity in various capacities and disrupting the market with its innovative vision. Besides versatility and convenience, one of the key focuses while launching the Bombay Sapphire RTD was to emphasise and ensure that the quality of the drink remained intact. While the product enables its consumers the ease of portability and storing the drink, what sets it apart is its taste that’s at par with that of a premium bar cocktail. Bombay Sapphire’s RTD is going to fit all occasions, anytime and anywhere; it is going to grow into becoming the next most demanded product under the RTD category.”

The sleek, matte finish packaging has been carefully designed to preserve the standard of the serve, both on-shelf and once purchased. The material helps protect the liquid from sunlight keeping the G&T fresher and colder for longer. Available individually or in a pack of four, the can is 100% recyclable. Bombay Sapphire & Tonic will soon be on the shelves of all top retailers for gin fans to pick up.

Uttar Pradesh increases license fee, sets excise revenue target at Rs. 40,000 for 2022-23

Uttar Pradesh became the first state to announce its excise policy for the year 2022-23, setting an excise revenue target of Rs. 40,000 crore, up from Rs. 34,500 crore in the previous year. To achieve the target, one of the routes the UP government has taken is to increase the license fee across all categories. The increase ranges from 20% to a whopping 172%, depending upon the nature of license.

Revenue Target

The UP government collects 20% of its annual revenue from excise, however in the last two years, due to Covid, there has been a dip in the collection of excise from the set targets. In 2020 -21 targetted revenue was `37,500 crore which was reduced to Rs. 34,500 crore in the current financial year (21 -22) against which by this year end the expected revenue collection is Rs. 36,000 crore. Considering the positive trends and situation becoming normal the UP government has fixed an optimistic revenue of Rs. 40,000 crore. This is 16% more than the revenue target of 2021-22. The breakup of revenue planned for 22-23 is shown below :

Avenues for Revenue

Licence Fee

To achieve Rs. 40,000 crore, it has increased the licence fee and security amount across all categories of licences. Some of these licences are shown below:

Besides the above mentioned increase, the processing fee for these licences has been increased to `1.0 lac as against Rs. 55,000 for each application.

Brand & Label Registration Fee

Label registration is very tedious work which the entire beverages alcohol industry has to indulge in every year by compromising manufacturing and supplies till new labels are registered. Manufacturers spend a good amount of productivity of its people besides paying the stipulated fee. The industry feels it is difficult to understand the reason for this increase every year. Under the new excise policy, this fee has been increased from 33% to 90%.

Excise Duty

There is a very nominal increase in the Pratifal fee of IMFL. This increase will be between 0.75% – 1.50% maximum per case of 9 litre depending upon the Liquor category (Economy, Medium, Regular, Premium etc.). Similarly for beer the Pratifal fee has been increased by Rs. 1 per litre. At least this is a relief to the industry which has a direct impact on fixation on MRP.

Country Liquor – The Milking Cow

Due to high sales, massive production stakes with minimal import allowed from outside state, country liquor (CL) has always been top priority for various state excise departments. CL’s contribution in overall excise revenue ranges between 45% – 50% every year and therefore a lot of effort is made to safeguard this major chunk of revenue. The UP excise has therefore initiated following steps to ensure its revenue of Rs. 19,140 cr. for the fiscal 2022 -23;

  • Reducing MRP by Rs. 5 per unit of 200 ML
  • Removal of Covid cess
    a) Not increasing the excise duty
  • Removing 42.8% v/v MASALA CL . Now there will be only two types of MASALA CL i.e. 36% & 25% v/v
  • However 42.8% v/v UPML shall continue to sell at reduced MRP

It is very interesting to note that the same UP Govt and state excise department which had become very strict on changing the packaging norms of country liquor last year has changed its decision in just a couple of months . After two subsequent hooch tragedies in western UP in early 2021, the alternatives of the CL in PET bottle were being discussed at high levels of government and in the months of July – August 21 pressure was mounted on the industry to source aseptic brick carton filling machines aka Tetra Pack machine since this kind of packing is considered as 100% tamper proof. In fact few circulars were issued to industry to start supplying at least 20% of CL in Tetra Pack immediately. There was much hue & cry in UP’s distillery sector because there is hardly any manufacturer of this type of filling machine in India and import of this machine can take minimum 90 – 120 days’ time. In the new excise policy this condition has been replaced from Tetra pack to glass bottle packing having a shrink wrap on the cap. This will certainly give a boost to Firozabad (UP) glass industry which has been requesting the government to provide a platform for its revival.

Wine: Still a Mirage

The total excise revenue generated through wine sales in 20 -21 was only Rs. 9.68 crore out of total revenue generated of approx. Rs. 30,000 crore. Wine’s revenue contribution increased to Rs. 29.54 crore in 2021-22 of Rs. 34,500 crore. The growth in wine sales in UP has phenomenally increased by 200% in just one year which clearly shows the scope and opportunities for wines. The increase of revenue is directly proportional to consumption.

At the moment there is not a single winery in UP and to boost the wine industry the government is continuing with its endeavour as provided in its last years excise policy by :

  • Exempting wines produced in UP from all types of excise duty & levy for a period of another four years
  • Allowing vintner to sell wine in a store inside the winery by paying a small annual fee of `50,000 for a year
  • Allowing wine taverns inside the winery.
  • A licence fee of Rs. 57,500 for establishing a winery in UP

The new excise policy also indicates towards a separate new wine policy being prepared. It is suggested that the UP government establish a wine promotion board on the lines of the Karnataka Wine Board which is headed by a knowledgeable and senior IAS officer and other administrative officers who closely work with wine industry to find our more and more avenues for increasing wine production and consumption. Associations and federations like the Indian Wine Academy should also come forward to tap this potential.

Ease of Doing Business

We can see some steps the U.P. government is taking for ease of doing business in the excise policy. Some of these initiatives are:

  • Annual licence fee for home/personal possession of liquor licence has been reduced to Rs. 11,000 from Rs. 12,000 from last year and the refundable security amount has also been reduced to Rs. 25,000 from earlier Rs. 51,000.
  • Wine manufacturing and selling soaps as mentioned.
  • No increase in bar licence fee.
  • Microbrewery can sell/supply craft beer in 50 litre kegs.
  • Wholesale licence can store stocks w. e. f. 15th Feb.22 meant for next excise year.
  • Renewal of retail shops is permitted.
  • No increase in any licence fee and excise duty for defense forces establishments in UP.
  • Rs. 50,000 will be given as discount on the licence fee if bar & microbrewery both licences are applied simultaneously.
  • Track & Trace system to be extended to the retail sales.

Analysis By: Gopal Joshi

Strategist & Consultant

Beverages Alcohol Industry

linkedin.com/in/gopal-joshi-78a2a33

Pass Code Hospitality expanding footprints

One of the original speakeasies’ which serves finest cocktails in all of India, and all you need to know is the passcode to enjoy them. Rakshay Dhariwal founder and MD speaks to Lopamudra Ganguly about his plans of expansion post pandemic.

PCO stands for ‘pass code only’, and as you may have guessed, this PCO is the place to go in Delhi and Gurgaon for perfect classic cocktails, as they skip no steps. PCO, ATM, SAZ, Jamun are all such outlets. Customers especially love their barrel-aged cocktail line (think Manhattans and Negronis), which truly shows off passion for their craft in spades, as does their rotating list of specials. To sweeten the pot, they also serve a tasty menu full of bar bites, and we can’t think of a better place to spend a night in the capital post pandemic. Excerpts from the interview.

Please tell us about your company and the concept behind it?

Pass Code Hospitality is a boutique food and beverage firm that specialises in creating experience-driven, fun-dine restaurants and bars. We started our company in 2012 with cocktail bar PCO, which was the first speakeasy in the country. Since then we have gone on to start the “first” of many types of restaurants – ATM a private member’s supper club, Ping’s, a healthy asian street food restaurant, SAZ, a new-orleans inspired American Brasserie, and Jamun, an Indian restaurant serving food from all over the country. Our motto is to bring new dining concepts to our patrons.

Tell us something which is special about your company?

We are known for our boutique brands and we make sure that each of our brands is different and truly representative of the product while maintaining very high standards for food, beverage and service. We are fortunate that each of these brands has grown into a market leader in its segment.

What was your marketing strategy in this Covid situation?

There was not a lot we could do – and the sentiment during the first lockdown vs the second lockdown was very different. In the first one we ran online auctions of experiences in our restaurants and had tied-up with a charity partner for this. But during the second lockdown, we were simply trying to help by providing food packages including rice, oil, salt, daal, wheat, sugar, soap and other basic necessities and distributing them to those in need.

What were the strategies to keep up the brand image in the consumers’ mind?

Most of our marketing efforts were centered around delivery and encouraging consumers to order directly with us. Due to the financial pressures of the lockdown, offering discounts and promotions was out of the question – instead we tried to focus on the quality and high standard that one can expect from dining at any PCH outlet.

What are your present projects running?

We are fortunate that all of our restaurants that were running pre-pandemic in Delhi, Goa and Kolkata are still operating today. We hope that as the months progress, footfalls keep increasing. We have been encouraged by the response we have seen since the second opening and actually have planned in the near future.

Are your expansion plans part of your post Covid revival?

Absolutely! We think food and beverage will bounce back in a big way. At the end of the day, people want to go out, meet their friends and feel connected to the larger world around them. To that end, we have very exciting plans to bring our brands to Mumbai and further expand in Goa.

Tell us something about your future plans?

We are just about to launch a version of SAZ in Goa called SAZ on the Beach, a beautiful beach bar and restaurant with spectacular sunset views. We are also opening Ping’s Cafe Orient, PCO and SAZ Cafe in Kamala Mills in Mumbai and SAZ American Brasserie in Jio World Drive BKC.