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NEW DELHI : With an eye on scaling its India business, Beam Suntory, which is part of Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd, is set to enter the already-crowded mass-premium whisky segment with the launch of Oaksmith and Oaksmith Gold.

This will be Beam Suntory’s first entry-level whisky crafted specifically for India, as it seeks to achieve $1 billion in sales by 2030. The new launches, said Neeraj Kumar, managing director, Beam Suntory India, will help it improve sales and expand its reach in the world’s top whisky drinking market.According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, as of 2018, whisky volume in India was around 213 million (nine-litre) cases, and the compounded annual growth rate between 2018 and 2023 is estimated at 8.5%.

Kumar, on Tuesday, also announced the launch of Roku, its premium gin (priced at 5,000-7,000). Besides, the company will launch two other high-end brands of Japanese whisky from The House of Suntory—Hibiki and Yamazaki. However, the two brands will initially be available only at five-star hotels, bars and pubs, other than select duty-free stores. The brands will be priced at 14,000 to 20,000 for a 750 ml bottle.

“We are launching The House of Suntory, our platform encapsulating our Japanese brands. It is more expensive than most scotches. Our intention is to build that segment as we grow. There are more expensive variants in Yamazaki and Hibiki. We will launch them in future."

Beam Suntory is a relatively small player in India’s alcoholic beverages market. Its brands, comprising mostly pricey scotch brands such as Maker’s Mark—bourbon whisky; Laphroaig and Bowmore—Islay single malt scotch whiskeys, reach one-third of India’s 70,000 retail outlets.

However, Oaksmith will help the company gain more access. “Oaksmith is a vital enabler of our 2030 ambition," Kumar said, adding the brand will essentially help them “double" their access to the market.

The two variants, Oaksmith and Oaksmith Gold, will be launched later in the week starting with Maharashtra. Priced between 800 and 1,300, Oaksmith will compete with Pernod Ricard’s Blender’s Pride and Diageo’s Signature.

India is by far the largest market in the world for whisky. Nearly one in every two bottles bought around the world is sold in India, and seven of the top 10 global whisky brands are Indian, IWSR said in a note on India’s whisky market.

Going forward, Kumar said, the premium business will contribute 50-60% to its ambition of turning into a $1 billion business here; while Oaksmith will be at 40-50%. “It is important for us to stay invested and stay focused for the next 10 years. It’s really the start," he said.

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