Whisky, the amber nectar, continues to dominate the palate in India. It is the preferred pout and the most enjoyed Spirit in the country. As elsewhere, even though Gin is gaining a lot of attention, but Whisky continues to be on top of the game.
The last 18 months have been dominated by Covid situation, impacting all F&B in India, including spirits. The Covid situation now seems in control; across the country except states of Maharashtra ( Mumbai ) & Kerala, where the numbers are still a challenge.New Delhi & NCR is well paced with Positivity ratio being less than 1 %. Vaccination rates have come down, but numbers are still high across most states.Hills Stations and Tourism spots are witnessing massive crowds thus endangering the covid climate once again.Medical Community & the Govt are preparing for the impending third wave, which is being predicted either in Oct or even Dec.Growth in Real Estate industry on premium housing. Growth witnessed in people buying houses in the hills. Large offices opening with 50% employees. Global brands are still WFH till Oct 2021, at this stage. There is reduced movement in High energy Zones like Bars, Night Life, Premium Dining, etc.. Wedding beginning to pick up with smaller guest lists of 50 -150. There is also a defined movement towards most affluence Indians looking at moving overseas – Dubai, Australia, Canada and UK being favourite
The F&B Environment in India is an upswing, as cities and states continue to open up.
Hotels and F&B Outlets have opened with 50% capacity. Bars have also opened but not witnessing large number of guests – Less than 30%. Over 35% outlets in premium dining may not open again, as perestimate at stage. Outlets are offering as much 33% discount on dining, with an average cheque US$20.00 per head. Most stand alone F&B Outlets are witnessing 40%-60% average footfalls, from 2019.Malls are witnessing 50%-60% footfalls but not much conversion in sales. Higher base of customers in local markets & for weekly shopping. There is a good response to fast food & Indian snacks – up by over 60%. Pizza is the most ordered fast food, followed by Burgers and then Indian Samosa. Full meals are being ordered at least twice a week by over 20% households, average US$ 80 per order. Huge growth in cloud kitchens & home delivery services. Growth in Indian regional cuisines & local chefs. There is also high growth in Indian Home chefs & home-made condiments. Hotels are offering Premium food Hampers with multiple cuisines, at over 40% discount from pre Covid rates.Most people who could not afford Hotels, are now enjoying hotel foods delivered at home, at 40%-50% lesser price. Hotels like The Taj Hotels are opening food trucks to cater to quality fast foods. Large Growth in health foods, spices & condiments. There is also large growth in home Cocktail Mixes, Tonic Water & Mixers. Home catering is picking up well, with packaged & designed hampers. There is definitive growth in premium alcohol & spirits. Growth in Healthy Dining & Premium Foods. Most Trends are here to stay – Health & Healthy Foods. Home Bars & entertainment at home – High Possibility of revival
All Things Beverage
Retail sales are at all time high with shops recording over 200% growth in the last few months. Hotels &Stand alone Bars are doingmodest business, less than 30%, but high opportunity in the next 6 months. The Duty Free is at an all-time low, but looking to ramp up in 12 months with international travel picking up again.Home Drinking – Starts on Tuesday & weekends are looking more “food oriented”. Over 20 flavours of mixers are on offer across premium outlets. Cigars are gaining ground with more smokers buying in India. Gin & Whisky top as Spirits of Choice. Rum & Tequila are on limited offer. Vodka picks up every so often often based on crowd. Bar displays – In Vogue. Movements towards Premiumization of Spirits. Whisky – Top of the Value Chain. New guidelines on Communication of Beverage Brands. Digital gains prominence, though physical event will start again by Sept 2021
The above points can be used as an input on going ahead with all areas.The consumer profile remains the same though there may be changes in their thinking. New Excise Policy in New Delhi – Encouraging, will lead to higher sales. New Excise Policy in Gurugram – Expected in 2 months. High end retail being planned across key markets in India. Higher focus of new Investors on catering to home services, fresh foods, fruits & condiments than bars. Investors are keen on low investments cloud kitchens, than investing in outlets in premium bars in “loud” locations. Move towards backing promising Mixologists / Chefs to offer & create own brand of Cocktail F&B Outlets / Outlets. Investors keen on creating home grown F&B Brands seeing the success of othere. Home chefs looking at small outlets & investors.
- New Bars coming up in Goa & smaller towns
- Neighbourhood bars may be the new trend in 2022
- Beam Suntory join’s Diageo & Pernod Ricard on top
- Reduced rate of footfalls in Bars in Malls – Needs to be studied
- Most younger people are relocating out of large towns, which is impacting office operations, such large companies / brands are looking at moving out of CBDs
- SLL also feels that these are current trends and things may change in the next 12 – 18 months
- It is imperative to adopt the new learning’s, refresh the product offering & launch again in India.
- The new marketing activity will need to start afresh & all old work may need to be updated
- SLL will start afresh, with redefined leanings and the new environment in Beverages & Bars
- Based on our joint plan on moving ahead, SLL is ready to launch any Marketing & Market Development exercise for Paragraph, UK in India
Whisky production has evolved in the last few years, in India. As per a Spokesperson of Paul John Distillery, “Changes are being seen and felt across, all Indian whisky has been changing on all points over the last few years. As consumers become more aware, and with more international brands now available, Indian Whiskies discovered the need to hold their own against global products and have striven to do so with success. New technology and innovations have been introduced across the board, including innovative packaging, better testing in accordance with global norms and information available on the labels as per FSSAI implementation in the country. More and more whiskies are using high quality Indian malt spirit along with grain-based ENA or even pure malts and Single Malts, all of which require not only resources and innovation but also need much stricter Quality Assurance processes.
Indian whisky (IMFL) historically has been made from molasses-based ENA blended with flavours due to the high availability of the by-product in our country. Over time, consumers have developed a taste for grain based and malt based whiskies and as such, the core DNA of most Indian whiskies has changed from cane based to grain based. The economy segment across India still dominates the volume of alcohol consumption. Having said that, we have observed that with the improvement in standard of living coupled with the awareness, exposure and evolving preferences will certainly redefine the Indian consumption pattern.
Though according to Mr. ThiruvikramNikam, Joint Managing Director of Amrut Whiskies,“The process of whisky production is more or less standard across the globe. However, there has been a massive change in the technology leading to improvements in the quality of the products while being environment conscious. Styling is an ongoing change that reflects the trend to connect in different ways with the customers.Though the basic production process remains the same but there is an increasing use of Grain Alcohol in Whisky making in India instead of Molasses Alcohol. Also increasing blending with Indian Malt spirit alongwith Scotch Malts.
The key factor in terms of production norms is sustainability and quality assurance. This includes the ability to consistently source high quality raw and packing materials as well as establish and maintain control on the factory floor to ensure consistent quality is provided. Based on one’s experience, these factors vary from one company to another. General key factors revolve around the raw materials, fermentation time, pot stills, casks etc., to produce quality new make spirit and by extension a great malt whisky.
Today’s Indian consumer is much more globally aware. They are highly exposed to global/international products and therefore are constantly and actively seeking out new and exciting options. Alcoholic beverages are now more acceptable, and the urban consumer specially is more educated and prefers to shop in large format stores where he can explore a wider range of options.The data reveals that there is a surge in sales of premium products which only goes to show that consumer exposure and preferences have evolved to enjoy better character and profile of whisky, rum or brandy. Also, the fact that availability and consumption of variety of brands from across the globe is an indication of the evolving consumer pattern. According to Sanjeev Banga, President, RadicoKhaitan, a leading Indian Company, “The Indian consumer has evolved a lot in the past few years and if fairly knowledgeable. They are seeking better quality products and willing to experiment and try newer blends.
There are new trends being witnessed in consumer behaviour as well. Product innovation and premiumisation are the key and bodes well for the future of Whisky in India. The Indian consumer demands high quality both in product and packaging, while still seeking value. MOTs and Modern trade outlets that allow consumers to enjoy a personal shopping experience will continue to grow, in turn encouraging consumers to explore multiple brands in addition to their brand of choice, their preferences may change based on occasion as well.
Consumers are showing keenness to enjoy quality products. Seeing this change, companies are gearing up to move towards premium segment of supply. In terms of marketing, the virtual whisky releases and tastings are here to stay for a while. The pandemic has made that aspect of brand building and storytelling possible with the consumer.Pandemic has resulted in more home consumption, upgradation to premium brands and taboos relating to alcohol consumption are coming down. More and more consumers are now drinking to enjoy and celebrate rather than to get drunk.
So what are the new consumer consumption patterns in India.! According to a Spokesperson from Paul John Distillery, “ The biggest change has been the acceptability of alcoholic beverages as just another beverage and their entry into the urban households. Today, it is quite acceptable to offer a guest a drink at home. This has allowed for consumption patterns to shift from a drinking session to sessions with friends and family where alcohol may also be served.The consumers today are much more evolved due to their exposure to more options. They know their tastes and are not afraid to experiment. This change is observed across all age groups, but mostly at the prestige and above price points.The consumers are becoming creators in their own right. While enjoying their whisky in the traditional way, they are also engaging in putting together easy-to-make cocktails that can give their favorite whisky a new dimension.According to Sanjeev Banga, “ There is increasing acceptance of the fact that India today is producing World Class Whiskies be it Blended or Single Malts. The Indian consumer now takes pride in the consuming Indian products and the craze for imported brands in gradually coming down.
There have been changing consumer preferences towards Whisky Styles, Regions, Countries, Palate as well. The biggest change is the move towards authentic, malt-based whiskies. As they experiment with various styles of whiskies, the consumers are developing sophisticated palates which allow for more variety in styles and finishes. Going forward, special finish whiskies will grow in size as they offer the consumer something over and above the standard fare. Though according to Mr. ThiruvikramNikam, Joint Managing Director of Amrut Whiskies, “Indian are known to like smoky whiskies (in varying range of intensity) and we have also observed that people take great liking towards having whiskies from across the globe. The consumers are wide ranging. They are new and evolved, young and older. They offer a mixture of opinions and views that brands are out to seek.More and more people are now drinking to enjoy the moment, be it with family, friends or in celebration of an occasion.
Indian are appreciating&enjoying their whiskies, more than ever before. Every consumer has his own way of enjoying a Whisky. Overall, however, we can say that consumers enjoy whiskies as they are, with less emphasis on flavoured mixers.People are enjoying their whiskies the way they like it and that is how it should be. Having said that, for a malt enthusiast, it is an exploration and normally they enjoy it neat or with a splash of water.Along with premium product offerings the resultant packaging has also improved tremendously and now you can get world class Indian products in packaging similar to international brands.
One of the key factors has been the change in packaging. Brads including Amorim Top Series, Portugal and Bruni Glass, Italy besides Wade Ceramics, England are offering world class solutions to the Indian spirit industry. Packaging has definitely changed over time. FSSAI and global packing norms have been key drivers in this change, consumers have also actively encouraged this change due to the growing urge to know what they are buying. Detailed information on labels, innovative designs that catch the eye and emphasise the quality of the liquid etc are specially noticed with regard to premium categories. According to ThiruvikramNikam, “Today brands are using the packaging to convey the uniqueness of their produce and enlighten the consumers to read and make a choice.
So after all this does Age continue to be a huge factor with Indian consumers. According to Paul John, “ Age is definitely a factor but more for the manufacturer than the consumer. With the much higher efficacy of maturation in the subcontinent, a whisky aged for 3 years here displays similar maturity to whiskies aged 8-12 years in colder climates like Scotland. The correct ageing of whisky is very important for manufacturers to get the product right. The consumer relates more with the experience of the finished product. Global malts are also slowly moving away from making age statements in acknowledgement of this fact, It is an undisputable fact that ageing of whisky is imperative to relish and enjoy it. Age plays an essential role in shaping up the whisky. However, the length of ageing depends and varies from place to place. Consumers now know better to look beyond the age and enjoy the whisky on its merit.
Though RadicoKhaitan, the makers of Rampur Single Malt Indian Whisky avers, Sanjeev Banga President, states, “ We strongly believe Age is just a number. Specially in Indian weather conditions where malt maturation is 3 to 4 times faster than Scotland. What is important is the taste of the whisky on the palate and not the Age. More and more consumers, specially for Single Malts are now aware of the fact that Single Malts coming from new world may not carry any Age Statement but are at par, if not better than number of brands that carry age statements.
The pandemic has virtually wiped out the on-premise channel. This has made the off/retail channel much more important than it previously was.In India, trade and channels vary from state to state based on state government policies. Now retailers are offering consumers a retail experience unlike before. Yes, very much so. The threat of the pandemic has made people wary on close quarter engagements and gathering. While social distancing is the norm, a lot of the consumer outreach program has taken stream virtually offering a unique solution and opportunities for brand building and marketing.Online and Home delivery are the new norms. Though still at a nascent stage in India but growing everyday.
Brand Marketing & Consumer Outreach
With the decimation of on-premise channels, it is no longer possible to allow consumers to experience new products or to pair food and drink for a new experience. In store marketing options are also highly limited. Thus marketing and consumer outreach has moved from the physical world to mass and virtual media where consumers share their experiences and build communities around brands. Since advertising is still not legally allowed for the industry in India, this means that consumer outreach is primarily based on word of mouth on social platforms today.
Digital marketing and social media are the new buzz words and their influence will keep growing in future
A Toast to the Future
Whisky accounts for nearly 70% of all spirit sales in the country. It is. While a lot of the categories in India are being shaken up and are creating a lot of buzz and activity, whisky is the dominant category in India and will remain to be for the foreseeable future.This is not likely to change in the immediate future. Though Gin as a category is growing at a very rapid pace, but on a very small base. Whisky will continue to flourish in India, however the next few years look tough for Made-In-India whiskies due to changing govt. policies. While we have already achieved parity or surpassed most global brands in terms of quality and packaging, the statutory and regulatory environment in India is highly skewed against domestic spirits. Global brands already have a massive advantage with fixed annual market costs in most states, as well as lower % taxes at the local level. They are also able to get around the Indian laws prohibiting advertising by running their global campaigns online. With the govt. mulling reduction of import customs duties, the disadvantage for Indian products will only increase.I’ll respond to this from Amrut’s perspective, we are adored for our innovation and unprecedented releases of single malt expressions like Herald, Naarangi, Spectrum …, continuing this trend we will soon be going to release first of its kind expressions in India and the globe. According to Sanjeev Banga, President, RadicoKhaitan, a leading Indian Company, “ As they say, best is yet to come. There is increasing premiumisation in the Whisky space and more producers are entering the Indian Single Malt category. The future looks very promising for Indian Whiskies not only in India but globally. India has so much to offer to the world in terms of its unique and innovative products.