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NEW DELHI : International brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has launched its first energy drink Budweiser Beats in India. Kartikeya Sharma, president - India & South East Asia, said the category was the next logical extension after AB InBev launched its first non-alcoholic beverages (zero alcohol beers for Budweiser and Hoegaarden) two years ago.

“The energy drink category is heavily under-indexed for premium quality brands. This will take Budweiser to newer, bolder places in the Indian market. It has been approved first for the India market, just like Budweiser Magnum was in 2012. After the success we showed with Magnum, it is travelling to China as a successful innovation born in India," Sharma said.

The company will sell its products online via e-commerce platforms as well as modern trade stores.

Though the company does make energy drinks Mawé in Brazil, Ghost Energy in the US and Fusion in China and Brazil, Budweiser Beats is first of its kind here. For now, the product will be manufactured in India and exclusively retailed here. Sharma said the company wants 20% of its global revenue to come from low-alcohol or no-alcohol products by 2025.

“This is a principal driver of why we are expanding our portfolio to offer 0.0% alcohol products; we are catering to more occasions when consumers don’t want to have alcohol in their beverages," Sharma said. Another reason to launch an energy drink here is that the category is extremely under-penetrated in India at just 5-10% as compared to the larger carbonated beverage segment.

Globally, the company had announced that it would want to reduce the harmful use of alcohol by at least 10% in six top cities across the world by the end of last year. It added that globally its ambition is for drinkers to integrate no-alcohol beers and beers with 3.5% or lower ABV (alcohol by volume) into their drink choices.

In 2018, India’s largest beer maker United Breweries Ltd (UBL) also entered the non-alcoholic beverages market with the launch of Kingfisher Radler hoping to extend the Kingfisher brand beyond beer and in regions that were otherwise inaccessible.

This segment of energy drinks, Sharma said, is growing at 19-20% CAGR. “And it represents a big upside for growth. We are taking learnings of the last 18 months, of developing 0.0% non-alcohol category from scratch. We will continue to venture further into non-alcoholic products," he said.

Vikram Achanta, co-founder and CEO of Tulleeho, a drinks training and consulting firm, said Budweiser Beats is an interesting crossover product as not only does it play off the Budweiser brand name, and hence potentially attracts the non-alcoholic or light beer drinker, it also reverberates with the trend in the soft drinks space that is seeing a shift to “functional beverages" that offer nutritional benefits.

Its success, he said, will depend on the taste profile in a category like this. “Red Bull has set a marker when it comes to taste perceptions of energy drinks, so this can’t afford to be too alien in taste profile," he added.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the energy drinks market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.22% in 2020-25.

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