With festival season round the corner, liquor companies are betting on premium products

BENGALURU: Liquor companies are either launching or pushing premium variants, hoping people would use their travel and partying expenses for buying pricier products during the festive season.United Spirits Limited, Radico Khaitan, Brown-Forman, William Grant & Sons and Amrut Distilleries have all said premium brands will drive the festive quarter where they see at-home consumption in small gatherings replacing holidaying and large parties during Dusshera and Diwali due to the pandemic.“Luxury division has not seen any decline since the pandemic and will be the main driver for us this season as far as sales and realisations are concerned. It will also drive a stronger profitability ratio this festive quarter,” said Rakshit Jagdale, managing director of Amrut Distilleries that is launching a triple distilled whisky.Companies also expect demand from airport duty-free to shift locally due to slowing international travel. Last week, Beam Suntory announced it will launch premium Japanese whiskey brand Toki.”With less sales from the travel retail channel, a lot of global purchasing is expected to be from Indian domestic shops and we are expecting to match or exceed our previous season volumes,” said Sachin Mehta, country director, India and Indian subcontinent, at William Grant and Sons that owns Glenfiddich and Hendricks.While most restaurants and bars have reopened, consumers are still iffy about stepping out frequently. Siddharth Wadia, director and GM – IMENA of American spirits giant Brown-Forman that makes Jack Daniel’s whisky, said the key difference this year is the relative slowdown in the on-premise channel due to lockdown. “We expect consumers to indulge in premium spirits as they would move their planned outdoor spends to brands that they can consume at home,” Wadia said.Historically, the festive season is also accompanied by music festivals that offer companies opportunities to market their products. This time around, such platforms are also absent.“We have digital content plans on making interesting drinks as celebration moves home,” said Abhishek Shahabad, VP and portfolio head for luxury and premium brands at Diageo India that sells Johnnie Walker and Black Dog.For instance, Radico Khaitan, which sells Magic Moments and 8 PM, had on-ground events including Sunburn Music Festival and Bollyboom last year. “Compared to last year, about 60% of the marketing budget for this quarter is being used up for digital marketing,” said Amar Sinha, COO of Radico Khaitan, which is launching a new variant of Rampur Indian Single Malt and a new flavoured rum.Festive season followed by winter months typically see higher demand for spirits compared to the beer segment in India. Yet, brewers are trying to innovate in an effort to compensate for their sales loss during crucial summer months when they were not allowed to operate. For instance, craft beer brand Simba has diversified into a new category of beer-flavoured chocolates. “We expect 5-10% contribution from merchandise to our overall revenue in the next five years,” said founder Prabhtej Singh Bhatia.
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