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NEW DELHI : Delhi-based Neeti Biyani, a public policy advocate, was not a gin-drinker. But mid last year, at a small at-home gathering, Biyani tried her first berry infused gin-cocktail. Ever since, Biyani is a convert. She now counts herself among the gin aficionados who enjoy the drink even at home as intermittent covid lockdowns have pushed bars to function under restrictions. 

Biyani now browses the internet to look up recipes for gin-based cocktails. Her bar cabinet stocks both Indian and foreign gin brands such as Greater Than, Tanqueray and Stranger & Sons.  

Soon she will have wider assortment to choose from as Pernod Ricard plans to launch its premium Malfy and Japanese Ki No Bi gin brands in India. Beam Suntory, meanwhile, is bringing its premium Sipsmith London gin to India and has expanded distribution of its Roku gin. 

Several other craft gin brands are in the pipeline, said people working closely with spirit companies. 

 

The premium brands are eyeing India as companies spot considerable consumer appetite for the alcoholic beverage. Consumer interest in the drink piqued with the launch of a raft of craft gins as well as aggressive promotion via curated experiential events such as Gin Explorer’s Club and Gin Sling. 

To be sure, while the pandemic hit total gin volumes in India in 2020 which declined more than 50%, premium gins posted a volume growth of 16.9%, shows data from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. IWSR forecasts premium gin to grow at 11.1% CAGR between 2020-2025. Gins priced upwards of 3,000 are considered premium by IWSR. 

Diageo India, that sells Tanqueray and Gordon’s gin in the country is also exploring the possibility of bringing flavoured variants of the two brands to India. “Overall, the category did continue with a double-digit growth in FY21, but not at the levels as seen previously. We are, however, seeing the same level of growth coming back already," said Abhishek Shahabadi, vice president and portfolio head for luxury and premium brands, Diageo India.  

The company picked early cues from shift to in-home consumption of alcohol during the pandemic and stepped-up marketing initiatives enabling consumers to replicate experiences at home, said Shahabadi. 

 “In line with that, we scaled our influencer marketing efforts to ensure that the trend continues at home for gin with selective offers on Tanqueray and Gordon’s bundled with mixers. Everything was available at off trade outlets so that consumers could carry back the essentials to enjoy a great tasting drink experience, comparable to what they enjoy in bars," Shahabadi said. 

Although India is predominantly whisky drinking, as upmarket, urban consumers look at newer forms of social engagement, experiences built around variety of alcoholic beverages have found favour. Gin, for instance, typically appeals to consumers aged between 21-45 years.  

Anand Virmani, co-founder and CEO, Nao Spirits & Beverages that sells Hapusa and Greater Than gins, said the tipping point for gin consumption in India was 2019 when a slew of events centered around experiencing gin at venues popped up in Bengaluru and Delhi. “That really drove excitement and engagement," he said. 

While almost 40% of consumption of gin happens through on-trade channels or in bars and restaurants and events, the pandemic led to a significant shift in the consumption of gin at home and in intimate out-of-home experiences. “It’s good that people were already getting accustomed to having gin when they went out to a bar, that’s really helped translate to a situation where they can sit at home and enjoy a cocktail easily," Virmani said. 

"The popularity of gin is a global phenomenon with experimentation going through the roof," said Kartik Mohindra, CMO, Pernod Ricard India that sells Beefeater and Monkey 47 gins in India. “There also have been a few craft gins of local origin that have come about. We've got a fabulous gin portfolio which has done phenomenally well," he added.  

Yet companies are waiting for consumers to return to the bars as the pandemic abates.  

Rishi Walli, Senior Commercial Director, Beam Suntory India, said gin has emerged as one of the most exciting categories in recent times and the buoyancy is here to stay. “Going forward, as consumers return to their favourite bars, a hybrid model is set to emerge as at-home consumption continues to stay relevant. This is set to benefit gin brands," he said.  

It also helps that several tonic water brands have emerged in the market given that gin and tonic—a quintessential British drink -- is the popular way to consume the spirit.  

 “Gin is an easy drink to make. It is also tasty," said Aneesh Bhasin, co-founder at Foxtrot Beverages Pvt Ltd that owns the Svami brand of tonic waters. It also sells ginger ale and recently launched flavoured garnishes for cocktails in a spray format. Lemonade is next on the cards that can be used as a mixer with a range of spirits.  

In the past year Svami has expanded its reach to over 1,400 outlets. 90% of its sales now come from retail stores implying that consumers buy its bottles as mixers for consuming alcohol at home. 

As physical events dwindled, gin and tonic brands took to virtual events to promote brands. Virmani said the company’s gin brands did Instagram Lives last year. While the frequency of events has climbed down, overall social media engagement remains high, he said. Svami too took to virtual events—Fridays with Svami—to make at-home drinks as consumers tried to replicate bar style experiences at home. 

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