Every individual has their own pick of their favorite poison – be it whiskey, vodka, beer. or varied flavors of cocktails - to choose from. While most drinkers prefer fancy brands imported from around the world, India is tapping on this market with its own share of brands offering alcoholic beverages to discerning consumers.
With almost 8.8 percent CAGR growth, the Indian alcohol market is exploding and there cannot be a better time for start-ups to enter the segment. India is the third-largest liquor market globally after China and Russia and the liquor sales in the country are worth over US$ 35 billion, with over 600 million people over the legal drinking age. Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol in India will reach 16.8 billion liters by 2022.
While the industry faced a heavy blow during the first half of 2020 with a sales decline of 29 percent due to the nationwide lockdown induced by the pandemic, but a strong revival in sales took place in the second half of 2020 because of which the segment could restrict its overall decline to 9 percent in the fiscal year 2020-21, confirmed Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC).
Moreover, revenue from the alcoholic drinks market amounted to US$ 1,371,385 million in 2020 which is anticipated to reach US$ 39.7 billion by the end of 2030. This was quite a quick recovery for a segment for which the business had come to a complete halt during the lockdown months and this can be attributed to a rise in needs of in-house entertainment and time out from everyday chores which prompted people to buy liquor in bulk as soon as sales resumed in the country. The festive season further provided an impetus to already increasing sales as consumers started celebrating occasions and attending small-scale events.
For years altogether, the Indian alcohol market was dominated by large brands like Allied Blenders’ Officer’s Choice, United Spirits’ McDowell’s, Pernod Ricard’s Imperial Blue, and United Breweries’ Kingfisher, among others. However, today with the increase in demand for alcoholic beverages, rise in disposable income, and urbanization of tier-II and tier-III cities, a number of start-ups have come to the fore with a fresh and unique approach to manufacturing, packaging, and marketing, to offer a plethora of alcoholic beverages and also mixers and premixed cocktails with distinctly Indian flavors to the consumers.
What’s more interesting right now are several state governments including West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, and Delhi among others having allowed home delivery of liquor now.
Here are a few of these rather new brands offering alcoholic beverage options to consumers in India.
Nao Spirits was initially launched in Delhi in 2015 and it later set up its distillery in Goa. The start-up, launched by Anand Virmani and his wife Aparajita Ninan, has two gin brands under its umbrella -- Greater Than and Hapusa and claims to be India’s first craft gin company, and also one of the country’s first craft spirit start-ups.
The brand sources its bottles, labels, and a few botanicals from abroad while most of the other botanicals and neutral wheat spirit are procured from various parts of the country.
Anand Virmani asserted, “It seemed to us only natural that a product rooted in herbs and spices should have its best expressions coming from India - ‘the spice capital of the world’. And yet, there was none. As bartenders and consumers of gin, we decided to do something about this. We created Greater Than in September 2017 to be a versatile and easy-to-love gin. Hapusa, on the other hand, can be described as a ‘contemporary gin’. It is made in small batches with only Indian botanicals."
Nao Spirits recently raised US$ 2 million as Series A investment from a boutique VC firm, existing investors, and family offices, and has now branched out its distribution network to eight Indian cities and 14 countries across the globe. The start-up also has a subsidiary office in the UK.
Jimmy’s Cocktails was founded by Ankur Bhatia in September 2019 under Radiohead Brands, offering a range of cocktail mixers.
Bhatia launched the first range of mixers in September 2019 only in select stores in Delhi/ NCR so that he could get a little time to understand the consumer response to the product. The brand entered into the D2C segment amid the ongoing pandemic and launched its website in April 2020 starting with deliveries only in Delhi/ NCR.
In August 2020, Jimmy’s Cocktails started delivering nationally via online channels and expanded its retail network to 20 cities. In less than a year, the brand has served over 1 million cocktails across India and scaled its presence to 2,500 retail outlets, and achieved 20x growth in revenue.
Buoyed by the success and response it got in India, the homegrown brand is now planning to enter global markets, including Australia, Africa, and West Asia, and is looking to raise US$ 4-5 million to fund this international expansion.
Jimmy’s Cocktails has so far raised almost US$ 1.5 million. The start-up clocked Rs 7.3 crore in its first year of operation and intends to take its business performance to Rs 100 crore over the next 3 years.
It recently launched two new variants in its cocktail mixers portfolio. Keeping in mind the brand’s vision to allow consumers to recreate gourmet bar-style cocktails at home, the new variants, Margarita and Bloody Mary, are crafted by an in-house team led by celebrated mixologist Yangdup Lama, who has worked to benchmark the products against popular global variants to perfect their flavors.
Bengaluru-based alcoholic beverage brand RockClimber was founded by Deepak Poduval and Hariprasad Shetty. It has a comprehensive portfolio of all crafted wine coolers, mixers, and other wine beverages and the brand currently is available in Maharashtra, Goa, and Punjab, and will shortly expand to six more regions - UP, Rajasthan, Odisha, Karnataka, Pondicherry, and Chandigarh.
The beverage by RockClimber is vinified from locally grown fruits, sourced directly from farmer communities, and the company promises to be a brand that makes an exciting shift from the snobbery associated with wine drinking to making wine refreshing, fun, and available for all. The start-up set up its first production facility in Tasgaon, Sangli district of Maharashtra, and plans to expand and add four more facilities across India to support the demand.
RockClimber recently raised a pre-Series A funding round worth US$ 1 million from angel investor Anand Prakash Sharma. It will use the majority of the funds as working capital. The company intends to register revenues in excess of Rs 100 crore in three years.
“The commercial wine and beer sectors are up for disruption as consumer palates are changing. The shift towards natural beverages that are priced in the value segment is happening, with younger consumers preferring fruity carbonated lower-priced wines. Wine coolers are fast eating into the strong beer market as consumers are switching to more convenient wine options compared to traditional offerings,” said Deepak Poduval.
Founded by Ajay Shetty in September 2020, gin and tonic brand Salud offers premixed drinks to Indian consumers. The journey began with the launch of G&T 2.0, a ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage in three flavors - Original, Cucumber, and Lavender.
Apart from the alcoholic beverages, the G&T maker is focusing on exclusive music and merchandise that augments the Salud lifestyle.
In January this year, the Bengaluru-based start-up raised funds from actor and serial entrepreneur Rana Daggubati. Ajay Shetty was joined by Deeraj Shetty, CFO; Srinivas Naidu, Creative Director, Shoiab Rafi, Head of Sales & Marketing; Chengappa KS, Head of Operations, and Sid Kumar, the master blender.
“We came up with the whole idea, actually a vision, of creating a global or an urban lifestyle brand. The idea was wanting to change the way people party, by using music, clean drinking, and showing them Life 2.0, the Salud lifestyle. We are a socially responsible brand and work with artisans to create ethical merchandise like our upcycled wood coasters, and artisanal handmade chalices with vegan colors.”
Salud is planning to launch non-alcoholic beverages as well. “We want to impact the alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverage landscape alongside being unique. We are confident to soon transform into a global Indian lifestyle brand,” added Ajay Shetty.
Trillium Beverages was launched in November 2019 with a vision to create a culture for craft ciders in India and to create a whole new product category differentiating from the wines and beers. The brand has a portfolio of award-winning ciders and retails three variants Izzy, Reed, and Kipp, in India.
Akash Sahu, Chief Marketing Officer of Trillium Beverages, maintained, “Making the right decisions on a distinct bottle and label style was important when creating the product. We wanted a label design that would convey the super-premium credentials and the elements of craft and texture. A design that would help us set a whole new grammar for the category and underscores the values of natural, easy-drinking, and delicious product.”
The ciders are currently available at select outlets across Mumbai, such as Foodhall, Santacruz; Haiko Supermarket, Powai; Living Liquidz, Hops Cork, Bandra, and others and also at select stores in Pune.