Home / Companies / Whisky still top tipple in Indian market

Whisky remains the favourite tipple of liquor drinkers in India, and there’s no challenger in sight.

Whisky accounted for 61.2% of India’s total spirits market by volume in calendar year 2016 and sales grew at a yearly pace of 3.8% in the 2011-16 period, data from global consumer research firm GlobalData shows.

As India’s spirits market grew at an annual pace of 2% from 2011 to 2016, a large part of the volume growth came from whisky, the data shows. 

“This came as a large consumer base of the Indian middle-class shifted towards premium whiskies," Apoorva Nema, consumer markets analyst at GlobalData, said in an email. 

The spirits market consists of eight categories: brandy, gin and genever, liqueurs, rum, speciality spirits, tequila and mezcal, vodka and whisky. Liquor companies have been introducing variants of rum, gin, tequila and other spirits, but haven’t been able to shake whisky’s dominance of the market.

In 2011-16, alternative spirits in India saw large declines. Consumption of rum—making up nearly 10% of the market by volume in 2016—declined 2.3% annually in the 2011-2016 period, as per GlobalData. 

“This is largely due to distribution woes and changing consumer tastes," Nema said.

In the five-year period under review, the market for whisky grew 30.7% in value to Rs1.24 trillion while the market for rum contracted by 9% to Rs19,135 crore. 

According to data from Euromonitor, liquor firms focused on the whisky business have seen a steady rise in their share of the total alcohol market (including spirits) while those relying on sales of rum have remained largely flat.

Pernod Ricard India Pvt. Ltd, maker of the whisky brands Royal Stag and Blender’s Pride, saw its market share rise from 5.3% to 7.1% of the total alcohol market by volume between 2013 and 2016. Mohan Meakin Ltd, maker of Old Monk rum, saw its market share by volume stagnate between 2.3% and 2.5% between 2013 and 2016. 

Liquor companies may see growth in smaller, more speciality spirits markets, GlobalData numbers show. Tequila and mezcal—distilled from the Mexican agave plant—saw the highest growth in 2011-2016, with sales expanding at a compound annual rate of 11.6%. Currently, the two Mexican liquors make up only 0.1% of the total spirits market, as per GlobalData.

No major liquor firm in India makes tequila and mezcal. Diageo Plc., the parent of India’s largest spirits maker United Spirits Ltd, acquired premium tequila brand Casamigos from Hollywood actor George Clooney in June for $1 billion.

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