Recognising the elephant that is India

Recognising the elephant that is India

Indian whiskey remains one of the dominant forces on the global stage, hosting six of the top 10 brands by volume – and each one of them saw growth in volume in 2021. The biggest operator in India is Diageo’s subsidiary, United Spirits, which owns seven million-case Indian whiskey brands.

Indian whiskey’s performance in 2021 took many industry-watchers by surprise. Despite repeated alcohol bans across the country throughout 2020-21 (on account of the Covid-19 pandemic), 11 brands of 13 whiskey brands showed significant gains, largely due to the rise in exports.

In the top 150 ‘Millionaire Brands’ recorded in the year 2021 – selling in the millions of 9-litre cases – Indian whiskeys dominated the listings yet again. McDowell’s No.1 (United Spirits Ltd.) came in 3rd (30.1 million cases), Pernod Ricard’s Imperial Blue (24.1 million cases) made it to 5th position; Allied Blenders & Distillers’ Officer’s Choice (23.2 million cases) came in 8th; and Pernod Ricard’s Royal Stag was in 9th position (22.4 million cases).

Other’s Indian whiskies in Drinks International’s rankings are Haywards Fine USL’s McDowell’s No.1 Celebration, Royal Challenge, Old Tavern, Haywards Fine and Director’s Special; Radico Khaitan’s 8PM, Pernod Ricard’s Blender’s Pride; and Sterling Reserve Premium and Royal Green from Allied Blenders & Distillers.

Radico Khaitan, with five million-case brands under its belt, is among the world’s top 10 spirits producers: 8PM Premium Black whiskey, Magic Moments vodka, Contessa rum and Old Admiral brandy. It surpassed such brands as Johhnie Walker Scotch whisky, Tanqueray gin, Grey Goose vodka and Hendrick’s gin.

Mansion House brandy from Tilaknagar Industries (4.5 million cases) and USL’s McDowell’s No.1 (1 million cases) were the only Indian brands in the category.

Scotch imports

The global exports of Scotch whisky in 2021 grew by 19%, marking the value of the industry well over US$ 5 billion. It is estimated by the Scotch Whisky Association that over 1.3 billion 700-ml bottles had been exported last year.

Although Scotch’s largest market by value, the United States, exports grew by 8%, the return to growth for the Scotch industry in 2021 was in particular driven by consumers from emerging markets like the Asia-Pacific and Latin America region, where value increases of 21% and 71% were recorded.

India ranks 8th on the list of Scotch whisky importers by value (US$ 175,747,020). It was preceded by the US, France, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Latvia and Germany. In terms of volumes, however, it was in 2nd position (13.6 million 700-ml bottles), with France in the lead.

Other trends

Several Indian brands – from single malt whiskies to craft gins, made-from-rice beers and spirits to bespoke bars and cocktail programmes – have won international accolades and awards, and most of them have already forged international collaborations and entered highly competitive markets.

The Covid-19-induced lockdowns have spawned two new categories: ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages and do-it-yourself (DIY) cocktail mixes. After Bacardi rolled out its pre-mixed Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic cocktails, Coca-Cola partnered with Jack Daniels to sell the same concept.

According to a report on consumption in India by Research and Markets, the value of the RTD sector is expected to surge at a compound annual growth rate of more than 10% until 2026, with volumes growing at 12.5% a year.

PepsiCo took the first leap with alcohol-spiked Mountain Dew in some countries. United Spirits is re-launching Smirnoff Ice, and Radico Khaitan is expected to launch Magic Moments Electra.

Jimmy’s Cocktails, In A Can, O’Be Cocktails and Salud Beverages are some of the cocktail and pre-mix start-ups that have already made a mark in the RTD sector.

While some state governments have permitted home delivery of alcoholic beverages, still others are attempting to make the business more “taxation-friendly”. While e-commerce is still a far cry, there are associations and lobbies that are attempting to make it happen, with all checks and balances thrown in.