Belgian beer brands Chimay and Delirium to enter India
New Delhi: It’s brewed by monks within the walls of an abbey and profits from it go to charity. Now, Belgium’s Chimay, one of only 11 so-called Trappist beers in the world, will be available in India.
Chimay is entering the Indian market at a time the Belgian royal couple King Philippe and Queen Mathilde are in India to mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Along with Chimay, Belgian beer Delirium, with its famous pink elephant logo, is also entering the Indian market. India will be the 60th market for Chimay and Delirium—two of the finest makers of ales in the world.
Both Chimay and Delirium will be imported, distributed and marketed in India by New Delhi-based Hema Connoisseur Collections Pvt. Ltd, an importer and distributor of some of top international liquor brands.
“India is probably the most difficult market. But the potential is huge. The beer market in India has matured in recent years, and a section of the society is exposed to Belgian beers which are known for quality, tradition and sustainability. We feel this is the right time,” said Alain de Laet, chief executive officer, Huyghe Brewery that owns the Delirium brand.
Delirium and Chimay have co-marketing arrangements and share a common brand ambassador for marketing their beers.
“Chimay and Delirium will be the most expensive beers in India. These are premium specialty beers. We are not into the volume game. We don’t just sell bottles, we sell good moments. We are here because we feel India is ready for our beer,” said Edwin Dedoncker, managing director, Bières et Fromages de Chimay that owns Chimay beer.
Both Chimay and Delirium will be priced Rs550 a pint bottle (retail) in India. Initially, the two Belgian beers will be available across selected eight retail outlets in New Delhi, six top hotels, a few restaurants and 18 pubs, including 12 units of Beer Café. “Within a few weeks, we’ll have similar presence in Mumbai and Pune. There is no immediate plan to expand further,” said Amit Agarwal, chief executive officer, Hema Connoisseur Collections.
Chimay and Delirium will focus on brand building at restaurants and pubs through sampling, and organize tasting events. “The marketing will be focused and we hope word-of-mouth to drive demand,” added Dedoncker.
Initially, the companies will sell two variants of Chimay—Gold (4.8% alcohol) and Red (7% alcohol), and Delirium’s Tremens and Nocturnum (both 8.5% alcohol) in India. Chimay Tripple, which comes with 8% alcohol content, will be launched in India soon.
While more than 80% of beers sold in India are variants of “strong” (more than 5% alcohol content), consumers have been shifting toward mild versions in the past couple of years after the concept of craft spread to India. In 2016, the size of India’s beer market stood at 2.92 billion litre, up from 2.74 billion litre a year ago.
Belgian beer is not new to Indians. Ankur Jain, founder of B9 Beverages Pvt. Ltd, made Indian drinkers aware of Belgian brands after he launched Bira91 in 2015. Bira was initially brewed in Belgium, and imported, bottled and sold in India as the country’s first handcrafted beer.
Before Bira, Jain had been importing about 50 craft beers from Europe (a bunch of them from Belgium) to sell in India since 2007. Jain closed the import business soon after he launched Bira. And he still loves Chimay.
“Love the brand. I will be one of the first buyers of their products once it hits retail,” Jain said. However, the Bira founder believes Chimay is unlikely to have volumes because of the price.
Owners of Chimay and Delirium are not looking for volumes either. “We’ll be happy with 1,500 hectolitre in the first year for each of the brands,” said Dedoncker.
The Delirium CEO, however, believes that India can be as big as China for both the brands. In China, Chimay sells about 8,000 hectolitre and Delirium 12,000 hectolitre a year. “In the longer term, India can become the fourth largest market (outside the home market) for both the brands,” said the Delirium CEO. At present, the US, China, France and Canada are the top markets for Chimay and Delirium.
Annually, Chimay exports about 60% of the 190,000 hectolitre of beer it produces while Delirium exports 81% of 200,000 hectolitre of beer it brews a year. Typically, the two brand increase production by 10% annually.
Beer pubs are upbeat. “Chimay is one of the most prestigious Trappist beers in the world. At Beer Café, these are the most premium beers on the menu. We have already witnessed a sense of exuberance among beer aficionados,” said Rahul Singh, founder and chief executive of Beer Café.
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