Bangalore: Liquor firm Beam Global Spirits and Wine (India) Pvt. Ltd, which owns scotch whisky brand Teacher’s, aims to induce more Indians to drink bourbon by ramping up the presence of its flagship Jim Beam brand in the country.
“American whisky and bourbon, as a category in India, is still very small. It always takes a while before you get to the palate of the consumer,” said Harish Moolchandani, chief executive officer and managing director (India) of Beam Global, the beverages arm of US-based consumer goods firm Fortune Brands Inc., which also makes home and hardware products, and golf equipment.
Aiming high: A liquor shop in New Delhi. More than half a million cases of scotch are sold every year in India, the demand fuelled by rising disposable incomes in an economy that’s growing at nearly 8%. Photograph: Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Bourbon—an American whisky mainly made from corn—has an insignificant market share in India that sees more than an estimated half a million cases of scotch whisky, imported in bulk and bottled locally, sold every year. A case of scotch contains 12 bottles of 750ml each.
“(American whisky sales) is as of now very small, but it’s growing,” said Siddharth Bannerji, managing director of New Delhi-based Kyndal India Pvt. Ltd, one of the country’s largest importer and distributor of foreign spirits. “Once (Jim Beam) starts marketing, it will do better.”
Jim Beam was introduced in India in imported bottles last year along with another brand, Maker’s Mark.
Moolchandani did not disclose sales projections, saying it was still early days for these brands. “We have been able to make a mark with the Jim Beam variants not only in travel retail, but in all key five-star hotels. We are also now going to be more aggressive in the retail market.” He added that bourbon sales are currently driven largely by Indians returning from the US.
Sales through duty-free shops at airports constitute between 40-60% of sales of international companies such as Beam Global and Diageo Plc., the world’s largest producer and distributer of spirits and makers of Johnnie Walker scotch whisky.
Beam Global is also hoping that bourbon will take off given that nearly 60,000 IT professionals have returned to India from the US in recent years, according to an estimate by The Indus Entrepreneurs, a non-profit organization.
Jack Daniel’s, currently India’s most well-known American whisky that has traditionally relied on an association with rock music to attract the youth, sees Indians returning from the US as good brand ambassadors.
“What has given us a great rub-off is the fact that 80,000 Indians go to study every year in America. A lot of them go through the Jack Daniel’s experience there,” said Amrit Kiran Singh, vice-president and area director (South Asia) at Brown-Forman Corp. “So we have Jack Daniel’s clubs for alumni of American universities in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.”
Singh cited figures from the UK-based market research company International Wine and Spirit Record to say that Jack Daniel’s was the fastest growing brand in the Indian market dominated by scotch whisky, and is currently selling 50,000 cases a year. “I think people are not drinking American, or Scotch, they are drinking brands when they pay this kind of prices.”
A 750ml bottle of Jack Daniel’s costs Rs2,200-2,500 in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore while a bottle of Jim Beam costs Rs1,400-1,700 in these cities.
Beam Global currently markets around 10 brands in India, including Laphroaig, a single malt, Sauza tequila and Canadian Club whisky, besides an Indian-made whisky called DYC.
India is a key emerging market for scotch, fuelled by rising disposable incomes in an economy growing at nearly 8%.
Indian imports of scotch grew 36% to £33 million (Rs268 crore today) for the year ended March, aided by a government withdrawal of an additional customs duty on imported spirits in mid-2007, the Scotch Whisky Association had said in April.