The playful monkey is back in the market. B9 Beverages Pvt. Ltd, the makers of Bira 91, India’s first handcrafted beer, launched 500ml cans last week.

“The cans were a necessity and are a natural extension in our product portfolio," says Ankur Jain, founder and chief executive officer, B9 Beverages.

The design is minimalistic but the cans, just like the bottles, stand out amid other products. They are 100% recyclable, says Jain.

Bira 91 was first launched in the summer of 2015 in 300ml bottles. There are two variants: the hoppy Blonde and the citrusy, wheaty White. It was launched to “fill the gap in the market for a trendy, unorthodox, fun and smart brand of beer that could be positioned between Indian brands and the expensive imported beers," Jain had said in an interview at the time.

Within one year, the brand started selling tens of thousands of bottles every month. Soon, however, it went out of stock as the arrangement with its sole bottler in Haryana fell through. It seemed that the company had failed to gauge the demand.

Jain assures that supply-side problems have been addressed and “most key markets have seen Bira’s presence with the start of 2017". The start of production at its Indore brewery has helped, he says.

In India, “attitudes towards alcohol are changing, especially among young urban dwellers who are gaining a taste for Western beer and spirits", states a Bloomberg report that quoted a 5 January note by BMI Research.

Though per capita beer consumption in India was a mere 4.6 litres last year compared with an average of 57 litres across Asia, India holds significant long-term growth potential as a beer market, according to the note. The note acknowledged Bira 91 as a “star performer", with sales surging from 150,000 cases in 2015, to an anticipated 700,000 cases in 2016.

And considering that the brand is also present in hotels and pubs on tap, the introduction of cans will only strengthen its position in a market still dominated by United Breweries’ Kingfisher brand.

Bira 91 is currently available in stores across Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Goa, Pune, Gurgugram, Kolkata, Indore, Bhopal, Nagpur, Gwalior and Mysuru. The 500ml cans are priced at Rs125 and Rs150 in Delhi for the Blonde and White variants, respectively.

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