Bacardi is promoting Stephanie Macleod, Master Blender for its portfolio of Scotch whiskies, to a newly created role as Director of Blending, Scotch Whisky – a promotion that recognises her talent and 25 years’ experience in crafting Scotch whisky.
A multi-award winning and highly respected figure in the whisky industry, in her new role Stephanie will continue to lead the famed blending legacy of Dewar’s Blended Scotch whisky, William Lawson’s Scotch whisky, and the five Single Malts – Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla – as Malt Master.
Her expanded remit will also see her develop the people and processes needed to continue to the premiumisation of the range and help deliver on the family-owned spirits company’s ambition to be industry leaders in innovation and quality.
“It’s an exciting time for Scotch whisky right now as demand grows around the world for top quality, beautifully crafted blends and malts. In my new role, I’ll be ensuring we are able to meet this increasing demand – both now and for many decades to come – while continuing to deliver new, exciting and curated Scotch whiskies, spanning our Blended and Single Malt portfolios,” says Stephanie Macleod, Director of Blending, Scotch Whisky, Bacardi.
At the 2022 International Whisky Competition, Stephanie was crowned ‘Master Blender of the Year’ for an unprecedented fourth year in a row, a feat which recognises her world-leading expertise in the art of blending. She is only the seventh Master Blender in Dewar’s 176-year history.
Stephanie became the first female Master Blender for Dewar’s in 2006, following her official three-year training with the then Master Blender. She joined Bacardi, based in Glasgow in 1998, and began her career in whisky as a Sensory Analyst at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, working on a project which attempted to unlock the maturation secrets of Scotch whisky.
“The consistent quality and flavour of every drop of our Scotch whiskies is thanks to Stephanie and her team. As Director of Blending, she will bring her mastery of the entire whisky-making process – from barley to bottle – to play a pivotal role in delivering our bold growth ambitions for Scotch whisky,” says Dave Ingram, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Bacardi.
Stephanie is passionate about nurturing the next generation of talent within Bacardi and the whisky industry. She leads a team of Blenders and Assistant Blenders who learn from her wealth of knowledge and expertise every day.
As well as heading-up this talented team, Stephanie will continue to share her story and her love of whisky to inspire others around the world to nose, taste and enjoy a sensory experience which is unlike any other.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which conducted a poll shows that a third of the voters are less likely to support the Conservatives if the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt increases duty, while 72% support a freeze on Scotch whisky tax in the Spring budget.
Jeremy Hunt has been urged to freeze duty to fulfil the pledge made in 2019 to “ensure our tax system is supporting Scottish whisky”. The Chancellor will use his Budget to finalise a long-awaited review of the duty system, but reports suggest whisky drinkers and producers will get nothing – and even see tax rates increase.
Per unit of alcohol, duty paid on spirits is already significantly higher than the European average, with around £3 in every £4 spent on a bottle of Scotch whisky going to the treasury as tax. A further increase to spirits duty in the budget would further add to the cost of living and fuel inflation – which the UK government has pledged to halve this year.
The poll, conducted by Survation, also shows Scotch Whisky’s crucial role in supporting the wider supply chain, with 76% believing support for the Scotch Whisky industry will boost hospitality businesses. Spirits like Scotch whisky account for 34% of sales in the UK on-trade, but 99% of distillers do not have access to proposed tax breaks in pubs and bars, known as “draught relief”.
The Scotch whisky industry already contributes more than £5.5bn to the UK economy every year. The sector supports more than 42,000 UK jobs, employing 11,000 people directly, the majority of whom are in rural communities of Scotland. More than 90% of all UK spirits production is based in Scotland, and the SWA has argued that any increase to spirits duty would put Scotch whisky distillers at a further competitive disadvantage and disproportionately impact business north of the border.
Commenting on the results of the poll, Mark Kent, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said, “Distillers across Scotland are waiting for the pledge made in 2019 to be fulfilled. There has been a review of alcohol taxation, but still Scotch whisky is taxed more than beer, wine or cider and 99% of distillers do not have access to tax breaks available to sales in the on-trade. The competitive disadvantage faced by the industry could get worse if the Chancellor further raises tax on Scotch whisky and other spirits in the Budget this week. We urge him to listen to people across Scotland, make good on the commitment to support Scotch Whisky, and freeze duty.”
In a recent visit to India, UK Ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to push for a Free Trade Agreement. The idea was to have fewer trade barriers between the two countries. In other words, an agreement that would help both countries ship products and services without excessive taxes.
For the UK Scotch whisky is the elixir perhaps because of Brexit. UK voted to leave the European Union and perhaps what went unnoticed was third of the country’s whisky exports - £1.3 billion ($1.65 billion) worth actually, went to EU countries. Post-Brexit however, that isn’t the case. The move has cost the scotch whiskey industry £5 million ($6.3 million) every week. And now they’re being forced to work with every EU country independently. They have to deal with different shipping norms, separate customs requirements and a whole host of packaging regulations.
It turns out that all these issues have prompted the UK to think differently and find newer markets. First, they targetted Australia and struck a deal — to remove a 5% tariff on scotch whisky. Elsewhere the UK managed to obtain the coveted “protected status” for its whisky by inking separate deals with Japan, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This will protect their scotch whisky from imitation, misuse, or any other forms of intellectual abuse.
And the focus shifted to India, a country that consumes more whiskey than any other country in the world. One in every two bottles of whiskey is now sold in India and the UK wants to make up for the loss in sales in the European Union by growing its market in India.
The UK allows ALL imports of Alcoholic Beverages into the country to be taxed to NIL customs duty and this is not just from India, it’s from 70+ other countries, that supply AlcoBev to the UK. Similarly, the conditions about a minimum three-year maturity, type of substrate used, the absence of additives, etc. are all equally applicable to Whiskies from all supplying countries, including the UK. So, there are no India-specific barriers that some players are seeking removal of. On the other hand, India imposes customs duty of 150% on all imports of Alcoholic Spirits, from all countries including the UK (which has the largest share of such imports), says I P Suresh Menon, Secretary General, ISWAI (International Spirits and Wine Association of India).
But the whiskey definitely dominates the Indian market, almost contributing 60% of sales to the IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) segment. But if you’re a person who enjoys a glass every now and then, you’d know there’s a difference between Indian whiskey and Scotch whisky.
Scotch whiskey is typically of Scottish origin and made from grains - primarily barley. On the other hand, IMFL is made from molasses, a by-product of sugar production and grains. It is much cheaper. So in some ways, IMFL liquor outsells its foreign counterpart in a massive way. But there’s another roadblock for foreign manufacturers - Taxes! See, taxing liquor is a wonderful source of revenue for the Indian government. For instance, five southern states namely Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala generate 10% of their revenues from taxes on liquor sales alone. And you can see why they want to impose even higher taxes on imported liquor. In fact, import duties can go as high as 150% in some cases. And that means, even though Scotch Whisky imports in the country have risen 200% in the past decade, it still only commands a tiny 2% market share in the Indian markets.
Now imagine if the tariffs were removed completely. What would that mean for the UK and Scotch Whisky industry. Well market sources contend that the market share could reach as high as 6%.
And so you can see why this makes total sense for whiskey manufacturers in the UK. But do Indians benefit in any way?
Well, for starters Scotch Whisky will likely become more affordable and more Indian whisky producers will use more Scotch in their IMFL and will premiumise their brands to an extent that the difference between Scotch and IMFL would not be much different. So it will mean that Indian consumers will get a product as good as Scotch at a favourable price. But cutting importing duties could also bump up revenues for the government. For instance, last year, the Maharashtra government slashed excise duty by 50% on imported liquor. And it now expects revenue to rise by ₹150 crores — from the sale of imported scotch annually.
And finally, with over 19 million new consumers coming of “legal drinking age” each year, India is definitely a market that liquor makers would like to tap into. Guess it will be a win-win situation for consumers. The Indian government may be tempted to go ahead with deal as the possibility of revenues rising in a sustainable manner is a good possibility.
According to Director General of the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC apex body for domestic liquor firms), Vinod Giri, this FTA also holds significant importance for India in the scope of future trade with the United Kingdom as trade competitors like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan enjoy duty-free merits under the UK’s generalised scheme of preferences. Indian liquor producers are keen to enjoy newer markets for their products in the United Kingdom but are hindered by the stipulation that whiskey exported to the Brits should be Grain based and aged for three years. At the same time, liquor produced in India is not aged.
Refined Oil (9.7% of all UK goods imported from India)
Medical and pharmaceutical Products (5.6 %)
Miscellaneous Metal Manufactures (5.1%)
Textile Fabrics (5.0%)
All these products were the primary imports to India from the United Kingdom, but as the pact stands on the brink of either collapse or being executed after several reconsiderations. A recent list had brought forward 240 odd items which would face trade duty deductions once the agreement is executed. From this pool of 240 things, a few that stand out are whisky, cars, vaccines, basmati rice, wool, and tea premix. As of now, no indication has been released about the possible way out of the situation, but in the coming future, it’s possible that the pact might be passed with several reconsiderations and follow-up procedures. Currently, diplomatic negotiations of the highest level are going on between the countries.
Amid reports of the UK seeking massive tariff concessions on imports of scotch whiskey during ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, liquor sector association Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has written to the government strongly objecting to any plans to slash Basic Customs Duty (BCD).
A reduction in BCD, it said, will adversely affect Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) brands since imports already dominate the Indian alcoholic beverages market. CIABC has been part of several recent meetings hosted by the Ministry of Commerce with stakeholders before the trade talks with the UK.
“India exports just ₹5 crore worth of alcoholic beverages annually to the UK against an import of ₹1,300 crores. Exports to the UK constitute only 0.2% of India’s total exports of alcoholic beverages whereas imports from the UK are 24% of India’s total import of alcoholic beverages,” said Vinod Giri, DG, CIABC.
Giri further noted that “restrictive” trade policies are also hampering the growth of Indian exports. “While the export of alcoholic beverages from India stood at 7.3 million cases (9 litre each) in the year 2019-20, exports to the entire EU (including the UK) were less than 30,000 cases which consisted of Indian super premium malt whiskies,” he pointed out.
CIABC said that the United Kingdom should also remove restrictions such as a minimum three years’ maturation period for whiskey and rum, since it has been scientifically established that in warm Indian conditions, spirit ages 3-3.5 times faster than in the UK. Giri added that a BCD cut would skew the balance of trade.
A notion worth dispelling is that Scotch whiskies are costlier to produce; it is 50% more expensive to produce it in India than in Scotland.
In wake of the Indo-UK trade discussions, many ‘experts’ argue for reduction in tariff, particularly slashing custom tariffs on imported Scotch and on ‘Intermediate’ products which they say are nothing but high-strength, potable, undenatured ethyl alcohol used for bottling and blending in India.
They argue on three main grounds. One, that India has a large trade surplus in the category and can afford greater imports; two, customs duty reduction on intermediate products will encourage ‘Make in India’; and three, even if tariff is reduced the bulk of consumption will remain locally produced whiskies — so why bother.
This industry contributes nearly ₹250,000 crore in taxes and for most states it constitutes 15-30% of revenue. Customs duty is not even ₹5000 crore in comparison. Second, this industry uses agricultural products as primary raw material and nearly 50 lakh farmers depend on it. It provides employment to 20 lakh people. Any disruption will have widespread ramifications for the government, farmers and labour market.
The problem with the first argument is that it hides the true balance of trade on alcoholic beverages using a wider head of ‘Food and Drinks’. If one separates alcoholic beverages/products for human consumption from the wider clubbing of ‘Food and Drinks’, a very different picture emerges.
As per DGFT data for 2018-19, India exports only ₹5 crore worth of alcoholic products/beverages to the UK, against import of ₹1300 crore. Clubbing alcohol under a much bigger ‘Food & Drink’ category to claim favourable balance of trade is highly misleading.
The second argument is also a misconception. Scotch Whisky goes through two major stages of productions — distillation and bottling. The ‘Intermediate’ Scotch whisky is actually the output of the first stage, it has been produced and matured in Scotland. What happens in India is only bottling. Therefore, while incentivising intermediate products through reduced or zero duty will lead to an increase of usage of bottling plants in India, which will be a big loss for Indian farmers and manufacturers.
The third argument misses out on three vital points. One, in product categories with multiple price segments like whisky, consumers seamlessly shift to the next category up or down depending on affordability.
So, when a Scotch whisky is sold at a lower price it takes away consumers from products in the price segment, starting a domino effect that makes the domestic industry the net loser. Two, introduction of Scotch whisky at lower price attacks the profit driving end of portfolio of Indian companies, thus jeopardising their viability. Third, Indian premium whiskies like Amrut, Paul John or Rampur are now regarded amongst the best in the world but are unable to make the same headway in the domestic market due to an unsupportive regime and reducing customs duty further just will not help.
Another notion worth dispelling is that Scotch whiskies are costlier to produce. Rather, it costs at least 50% more to produce a whisky of similar quality in India than in Scotland. This is primarily on account of a higher cost of capital and higher taxes in India, interstate restrictions and higher evaporation losses.
Also, many states offer concessionary taxes on imported products, but reduction in customs tariffs cannot be done without removing compensatory state-based concessions as otherwise it will create a hugely discriminatory tax regime against Indian products.
If we talk about reciprocal duty concessions, the problem is that barriers put up by the UK are not tariff based but non-tariff ones. India, being a sugar producing country, has evolved whisky recipes based on spirit distilled from molasses. The UK does not accept this as it is not “recipe standards”. The result of these non-tariff barriers is that of the 70 lakh cases of whisky exported from India every year, the whole of the EU including the UK accounts for less than 30,000!
Indian industry is not against reducing customs duty on alcohol, but it should be in a phased manner and up to a point where it creates a level playing field.
Accordingly, it has put forward its recommendation to reduce import taxes, aggregate of customs duty and AIDC, from 150% to 100% now and to 75% in five years’ time. It has also recommended a threshold import price for taxation at $5 per bottle, and reciprocal concessions from the UK allowing whiskies from India to be allowed in the UK market as ‘Indian Whisky’ without minimum maturity conditions.
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.
Global exports of Scotch Whisky grew to £4.51bn during 2021, according to figures released recently by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), as the industry continues to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and US tariffs.
In 2021, the value of Scotch Whisky exports was up 19% by value, to £4.51bn. The number of 70cl bottles exported also grew by 21% to the equivalent of 1.38bn.
Growth in 2021 was driven in particular by consumers in Asia Pacific and Latin America, with value increases of 21% and 71% respectively. Key emerging markets for Scotch Whisky – like India, Brazil, and China – grew strongly. Exports grew by 8% in the United States – the industry largest market by value – despite the first quarter of 2021 impacted by the 25% tariff on Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Exports to the European Union grew by 8% in the first year since the UK left the transition period.
Despite the return to growth in 2021, the value of Scotch Whisky exports has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with exports remaining 8% lower than 2019.
Commenting on the figures, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association Mark Kent said, “The global footprint of the industry in 2021 is a clear sign that the Scotch Whisky industry is on the road to recovery.
“Value and volume are both up as consumers return to bars and restaurants, people return to travel and tourism, and we all return to a degree of normality after a period of enormous uncertainty for consumers and business.
“Scotch Whisky growth in global markets means more jobs and investment across Scotland and the UK supply chain. The industry has continued to invest in its production sites, tourist attractions and workforce to ensure that Scotch Whisky remains at the heart of a dynamic international spirits market and attracts new consumers around the world.
“But this this is no time for complacency. The industry continues to face global challenges, including ongoing trade disruption, growing supply chain costs and inflationary pressures, and undoubtedly there is some road to run before exports return to pre-pandemic levels.
“The UK and Scottish governments should do all they can to support the industry’s continued recovery by making the most of global opportunities, including the ongoing UK-India trade talks, ensuring fairness in the UK duty system, and investing in a more sustainable future as the industry works to reach net-zero by 2040.”
Export value of Scotch Whisky in 2021 was £4.51bn, up £705m compared with 2020, but down £403m compared to 2019.
Export volume of Scotch Whisky in 2021 was 1.38bn 70cl bottles (equivalent), up 238m 70cl bottles compared with 2020 and up 73m compared to 2019.
On average, 44 bottles of Scotch Whisky are exported every second (up from 36 bottles per second in 2020).
Top 10 Markets
The largest export destinations for Scotch Whisky (defined by value) in 2021 were:
8.4% (£729m in 2020)
2.8% (£376m in 2020)
24.3% (£182m in 2020)
-14.3% (£247m in 2020)
84.9% (£107m in 2020)
-11.8% (£176m in 2020)
6.4% (£139m in 2020)
42.9% (£102m in 2020)
16.2% (£114m in 2020)
7.9% (£109m in 2020)
The largest export destinations for Scotch Whisky (defined by volume, 70cl bottles equivalent) in 2021 were:
-0.1% (176m bottles in 2020)
44.3% (95m bottles in 2020)
12.6% (112 m bottles in 2020)
80.5% (45 m bottles in 2020)
25.9% (45 m bottles in 2020)
32.0% (36 m bottles in 2020)
13.0% (42 m bottles in 2020)
7.2% (43 m bottles in 2020)
19.4% (37 m bottles in 2020)
40.7% (30 m bottles in 2020)
In 2021, Scotch Whisky exports by global region (defined by value) were (% change vs 2020):
Dewar’s Scotch whisky marked 175 years of Scotch-making recently. Over the course of these spectacular 175 years, Dewar’s has created some mighty fine products along the way and crafted an unparalleled experience for patrons. The whisky maker has a rich history with over 15 plus products which cater to the premium category. Dewar’s is also widely known for pioneering the double ageing process to serve its drinkers a refined and balanced taste.
Founded in 1846 by John Dewar, the journey of Dewar’s started from a small wine and spirits merchant shop in Perth, Scotland to become a global brand that it is today. John Dewar was so proud of the quality of his blended Scotches that he was one of the first Scotch blenders to put his name on a bottle as a guarantee of quality. In 1880’s, Alexander and Tommy Dewar inherited Scotch whisky business from their father. They divided the responsibility between themselves and embarked on a journey to make Dewar’s one of the fastest growing premium whiskies in the world. In 1890, Master Blender A.J. Cameron joined Dewar’s and pioneered the novel Double Ageing process for greater harmony and extra smoothness to all the Dewar’s blend.
Taking inspiration from Dewar’s first Master Blender- A.J. Cameron’s achieved notes, Master Blender Stephanie Macleod created the Dewar’s Double Double whisky range using an innovative four-step ageing process. The unique taste of this double blended scotch has enabled the brand in winning multiple/several prestigious titles and accolades like ‘World’s Best Blended’ and ‘Best in Class’ among others.
Commenting on the wins, Vijay Dev, Consumer Marketing Lead, Whiskies at Bacardi India said, “This is a significant milestone for Dewar’s! We are elated to be a part of one of the world’s most awarded Scotch whisky, after all double is better. With our commitment to serve the smoothest blend to our consumers, we will be bringing multiple variants like Japanese Smooth and Ultra-Premium Double Double Series 21, 27 and 32 year old to India in the near future.”
Currently at the historical achieve of Dewar’s in Glasgow, Jacqui Seargeant, Global Heritage Manager & Whiskies Archivist, Bacardi has been preserving more than 10,000 items from the rich heritage of the DEWAR’S family including bottles from the 19th century, documenting family photos from company founders, curating museum collections, and fact finding the origin stories of classic cocktails. The archive has inspired bottle designs, brand campaigns, and recipes. While going through the archives, Jacqui came across Tommy Dewar’s Original Highball recipe, which is today whisky drinkers’ favourite cocktail across the globe.
The global premium spirits company Beam Suntory has combined its knowledge and expertise of premium spirits from across the globe to bring to India, a truly International blended whisky, ‘Oaksmith Gold’. It is a first of its kind spirit with the best of Scotland and The United States of America by blending premium aged Scotch Malts, aged Kentucky straight Bourbon – some from distilleries over 200 years old – with world class Japanese craftsmanship. Oaksmith Gold and its blend are a celebration of craftsmanship and global collaboration, combining the best of East and West in a beautifully crafted 6-edged bottle. A celebratory ode to the impeccable Japanese craftsmanship, Oaksmith Gold is an iconic global brand starting off from India, bringing in an unmatched international experience with every sip.
What makes it truly gold?
The ingredients do the magic. From Grain to Bottle, Oaksmith Gold is a spirit with a smooth taste. It delicately blends high quality aged Scotch Whisky Malts from the lush highlands of Scotland with aged Kentucky Straight Bourbon whisky from The United States of America using impeccable craftsmanship of Japan. As a result of this world class unique blend created by one of the most celebrated master blenders globally – Shinji Fukuyo, the man with over 30 years of experience creating the most famous award-winning Japanese whiskies in the world such as Yamazaki and Hibiki – the taste of Oaksmith Gold is rich, smooth and refined. On the palate, the flavour profile is mild but full body with woodiness from the oaks casks, on the nose, it is rich fruity and has a sweet top note followed by a hint of smoke (peat), on the finish, it is clean and smooth making it very delightful. This makes it perfectly suited to tickle the taste buds of connoisseurs and beginners alike.
Aged Bourbon Whiskies from the Americas
Elegant. Smooth. Refined. That is what four years of aging in newly charred American white oak barrels does to the bourbon, which goes into the delicate Oaksmith Gold blend. A method tested over more than 200 years of time – a method as old as the distillery that produces it.
Aged Scotch Malt Whiskies from Scotland
Oaksmith contains carefully selected Premium and Aged Scotch Malt Whiskies that speak of the pride and confidence of some of the most charming distilleries in Scotland. Crafted as nature intended, these precisely selected whiskies are known for wholesome maltiness, honeyed sweetness, a delicious creamy texture, and as much character as the Highlands of Scotland!
The Impeccable Craftsmanship of Japan
Japanese dedication to quality and craftsmanship is world renowned. Oaksmith Gold is a perfect representation of Takumi which in Japanese means ‘artisan’ or ‘skillful’ as it is an ode to Japanese craftsmanship. The rare blend has a fine balance of smokiness, sweetness and smoothness that was crafted by world renowned Shinji Fukuyo – Chief Blender at Suntory, the founding house of Japanese Whisky – after spending hours meticulously selecting aged spirits in oak barrels. The name – Oaksmith is a tribute to this craftsmanship, and the fine oak casks that Beam Suntory’s whiskies are aged in. From seed to sip, Oaksmith Gold is gentle on the nose and strikes a balance between the oak’s woodiness with notes of rich fruity sweetness giving it a clean and smooth finish. Further, to truly match it to the local palate, he travelled across the length and breadth of India to understand the nuances of Indian food and flavours and what could match perfectly with them.
What constitutes The Perfect Serve?
This beautifully crafted whisky blends well into any cocktail and pairs well with almost all flavour profiles of food. However, the perfect serve of Oaksmith Gold, is a celebration of purity, authenticity and high quality that comes alive recommended as 45 ml poured in a pre-chilled, wide mouthed whisky rock glass. Add signature Oaksmith Gold spherical ice for this Takumi ritual, if not, four big ice cubes or six small, and finally add water to taste, but no more than the pour size (45ml in this case).
Pricing and Availability
Oaksmith Gold brings Japanese mastery – otherwise a super-premium and luxurious phenomenon – to Indian whisky price points to elevate the product experience many notches above the standard segment offering. Oaksmith Gold is currently available in the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Goa, Assam, UP and ranges from Rs. 630 to Rs. 2,000 for a 750 ml bottle.
Seagram’s 100 Pipers, the largest selling Scotch whisky in India, continues to achieve bigger milestones and set new benchmarks in the industry. It has proven itself to be a market leader, thought leader, and innovation leader. In the last business cycle, Jul’20 – Jun’21, 100 Pipers has broken not one but two records.
100 Pipers became the first and only Scotch brand in India to cross the 1 million+ case mark in annual sales, twice – a solid stamp on the consumers’ love for the brand.
Adding to this success streak, the brand’s premium variant ‘100 Pipers Blended Scotch, Aged 12 years’ crossed 100,000 Cases in annual sales for the first time ever since its launch in 2012. A notable performance by the aged variant – it is now the largest selling 12-Year-Old Scotch in India, confirming that “Age Matters” to the discerning Indian scotch aficionado.
Asserting its dominance in the Scotch whisky market, the brand had recently launched a new variant ‘100 Pipers Blended Malt Scotch, Aged 8 Years’. This is the first & only ‘100% Malt’ Scotch offering in the Standard Scotch category – a game-changing innovation by 100 Pipers.
With a global footprint spanning eight countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East and South America, 100 Pipers brings a truly international experience to the Indian consumers, with the widest range of unique Scotch variants. It is also the second largest Scotch whisky in Asia.
Commenting on the multiple achievements, Kartik Mohindra, Chief Marketing Officer, Pernod Ricard India said, “100 Pipers continues to shape the Indian Scotch segment and set new records. This is driven by its increased popularity among the younger, aspirational consumers who are resonating strongly with the brand’s purpose-led initiatives due to their uniqueness, authenticity and credibility.
Like, the international award-winning Legacy Project – which showcases endangered Indian art-forms via Limited Edition Packs and provides tangible livelihood support to artisans. Recognised internationally and in India by some of the most prestigious awards in the world for creative excellence, The Legacy Project won the Bronze Pencil at One Show Awards (New York), Merit at D&AD Awards (UK), Bronze at Spikes Asia, and multiple honours at Kyoorius Creative Awards.
Also, the 100 Pipers Play for a Cause platform that has been leveraging music for many years to raise awareness and funds for various social causes like meals for underprivileged, flood relief, etc. in addition to supporting the partnering musicians.
In addition to trendsetting campaigns, the young, aspirational consumers have also taken well to the newly launched 100 Pipers Blended Malt Scotch, Aged 8 Years. This category-first 100% Malt Scotch seeks to give younger consumers a unique experience that welcomes them into the world of Malt Scotch. With the discerning consumer increasingly experimenting with Malts, this eclectic and premium scotch showcases its craftsmanship and heritage that dates back to decades of scotch whisky making.
Overall, our strong performance over the years is a testament to great product craftsmanship, category first innovations, our differentiated and aspirational brand communication, and purpose-led initiatives – all coming together to help us build greater stature esp. amongst the younger consumers.”
As the largest whisky market in the world, India’s Scotch segment continues to be highly aspirational for whisky consumers. With sales hitting bigger benchmarks across variants and a keen eye on leading innovation, Seagram’s 100 Pipers is poised to continue as the dominant force in the market.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) banned surrogate advertising of liquor during India’s showstopper event – Indian Premier League 2021 which however, got truncated, due to some players and franchise staff testing positive. Talks are on to hold the unfinished spectacle in the United Arab Emirates, like it did in 2020 without crowd attendance, to be viewed on a broadcast platform.
It was during 2020 IPL that surrogate advertising was active on television and digital medium, particularly OTT (over the top), the latter in the absence of clear guidelines. “The IPL broadcaster for TV has confirmed to the ASCI that all advertisements are checked for CBFC clearance so that they are not in violation of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTNR). Keeping that in mind, the ASCI processed complaints on advertisements appearing in OTT, digital and print media,” ASCI said. The association suo motu took up 14 complaints and some of the advertisers withdrew the ads.
Brand extensions have some leeway
The CTNR rules prohibited the direct or indirect advertising of cigarettes, tobacco products, wine, alcohol, liquor or other intoxicants in 2009. The Information & Broadcasting Ministry, however, allowed advertisements of products even if they shared a brand name with a liquor or tobacco product so long as it wasn’t a manifestation of the prohibited product. Advertisement of brand extensions of liquor and tobacco products is permitted under CTNR, provided the product sold under the brand extension does not make direct or indirect references to the prohibited product, it is distributed in reasonable quantity and is available in a substantial number of outlets, and the proposed expenditure on the advertisement of the brand extension product is not disproportionate to the actual sales turnover of that product.
ASCI guidelines for brand extensions
The Advertising Standards Council has ‘Guidelines for qualification of brand extension product or service’ wherein for an advertisement to qualify as a genuine brand extension advertisement (by implication, not surrogate), the in-store availability of the product sold must be at least 10% of the leading brand in the product category or sales turnover of the product must exceed `5 crores annually or `1 crore in the state where the product is distributed.
Age-old question, whether to allow liquor advertising or not?
However, the question that keeps raking up is an age-old issue – whether to allow liquor advertising / surrogate advertising or not? And the topic is universal leading to unending debates. Across continents, there are countries where liquor advertising is allowed and then there are as many countries that have banned / restricted advertising of alcoholic beverages. In the United States, spirits advertising has self-regulatory bodies that create standards for the ethical advertising of alcohol. In the UK, advertising for alcoholic drinks follows a code enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, while the packaging and branding of the products is subject to self-regulation. In Thailand, alcohol advertisements are allowed but with a warning message. In South Korea, public advertising is allowed only after 10 p.m. In the Philippines, alcohol advertising comes with a disclaimer ‘Drink Responsibly’. In India, liquor advertising was banned after the Ministry of Health found that cigarettes and liquor had adverse effects on a person’s health. However, advertisements for liquor brand extensions can run on television only if they have a certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification. That led to the companies (manufacturers and also advertising agencies) becoming innovative with ‘surrogate advertising’ wherein unrelated products with the same brand name is manufactured / advertised and sold, only to ensure that the liquor brand name stays right on top of consumers’ minds. Unrelated products include mineral water, music CDs, soda, sports accessories and anything that can be advertised.
Active on digital media
The question here is when liquor companies are active on social media which is a major influencer, an indisputable force and not to mention its enormous reach, the whole idea of banning on OTT and television smacks of hypocrisy. It is indeed paradoxical that excise which is one of the top revenue earners for most states, going up to 15 % of the overall revenues, is not allowed to be promoted. There is a school of thought that believes if a product is allowed to be manufactured and sold, it should be allowed to be advertised, but that is over simplification as it will certainly be like opening up the Pandora’s Box.Gokul Krishnamoorthy who worked with an agency that handled United Breweries in an opinionated article in the Financial Express says “While ASCI banning surrogate ads by liquor brands during the curtailed IPL 2021 was a welcome move, it prompted a question in many minds. What explains the existence of a team called ‘Royal Challengers Bangalore’? One can’t help but remember that the current captain of the team Virat Kohli is idolised by a young boy in a health beverage commercial, among many others. Royal Challenge is a brand of whisky owned by United Spirits, which also owns the Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team. If scale of presence, volume of advertising, market share and the likes are the key metrics by which one decides whether or not an alcohol brand can advertise its extension, then Royal Challengers Bangalore has no problem at all.” He goes on to add “The only seeming solution then, albeit rather simplistic and overarching, is that if a brand is present in a category where promotion is banned, it should not be allowed to promote itself in any context. It should be denied the right to promotion, whether for its shared corporate brand, for its extension, for its event, for its cricket team or whatever else.” Since such conundrums exist, there are those who feel that we need to shed this hypocrisy and accept that people do drink and reaching them is a legitimate part of a company’s business plans. The companies should be allowed to promote safe, moderate and responsible drinking. In states where there is prohibition this issue does not crop up at all. With digital media coming into play, some players have been advertising brand extensions as the CTNR does not apply to advertisements over the internet. This is changing as we have seen the government bringing social media under control. The digital medium is pretty nascent and governments are grappling with policies to rein in the medium. Indian liquor companies have been using social media to promote their brands. The UB Group recently tied up with a digital content company which produced a web series titled ‘Pitchers’, a five-part series on four friends trying to launch a start-up. With over 10 million viewers, the show got a rating of 9.7 out of 10 on internet movie database website, making the new concept of advertising, going beyond surrogate advertising. As rules become stricter, liquor brands will look at different channels – events, experiential, branded content and in-film, like ‘Pitchers’. As manufacturers need to advertise, one way or the other as to get their products sold, they have been innovative in how to get the message across.
This upcoming World Whisky Day, raise a glass and call in the celebration with Glenmorangie The Original 10 year old single malt scotch whisky. Have it by itself the old fashioned way or shake up some signature Glenmorangie cocktails as under.
Price (Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore) Glenmorangie The Original
Delhi – ` 4800
Bangalore – ` 7618
Mumbai – ` 7426
Glenmorangie Cocktail Recipes
Glassware: Nick & Nora
45 ml – Glenmorangie Original
2 ml – Orange Marmalade
10 ml – Aperol
15 ml – Lemon Juice
10 ml – Orange Juice
25 ml – Egg White
Garnish: Edible Flowers
Add all ingredients to a shaker and reverse dry shake. Double strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with bitters and edible flowers.
THE ORANGE HIGHBALL
50 ml – Glenmorangie Original
50 ml – Soda Water
50 ml – Tonic Water
Garnish: Orange Wedge
Fill a highball with ice and add Glenmorangie. Squeeze on wedge into the glass and then top with Soda and Tonic Water. Garnish with an Orange Wedge.
GLENMORANGIE GINGER LEMON
Glassware: Old Fashioned
50 ml – Glenmorangie Original
7.5 ml – Sweet Vermouth
7.5 ml – Ginger Syrup
2 Dashes – Angostura Bitters
1 Dash – Orange Bitters
Garnish: Lemon Twist, Crystallised Ginger
Add all ingredients to mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well chilled, strain into an old fashioned glass with a block of ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and crystallised Ginger.