High-end brands, the mantra for liquor firms in 2008

Written by Reghu Balakrishnan | Mumbai | Updated: Dec 30 2008, 08:56am hrs
The Indian liquor industry witnessed a cache of premium alcohol brand launches in the year 2008. The brands vary from wines to single malt whiskies, and are priced up to Rs 2.5 lakh. Factors such as increased disposable income, growing affluence and higher aspiration of youth might have pushed the liquor majors to focus on high-end brands in India. Buoyed by the tremendous growth in premium category, firms are keen on adding premium brands to their respective product portfolios.

The numero uno, United Spirits, has been concentrating on luxurious single malt whisky such as Dalmore (Rs 4,450 to Rs 2.5 lakh), while Diageo has launched King George V (Rs 50,000) and JW Blue Label Magnums (Rs 41,000) in India. Diageo has also expanded its single malt whisky portfolio with the launch of Cragganmore and Lagavulin brands, which are priced at about Rs 10,000 per bottle. A couple of years down the line, Diageo India plans to take up the revenue share of its reserve brands to 40%, Santosh Kanekar, director, marketing, Diageo India had told FE. Currently, luxury brands yield 20% of its revenues. With its focus on Dalmore, United Spirits is learnt to be eyeing about 10% of the total 25,000 cases of high-end single malt whisky market in India. Aiming at the growing premium sector, Bacardi Martini India Ltd has launched Scotch whisky brands Dewars and Aberfeldy, priced in the range of Rs 1,350 to Rs 22,000.

Along with their counter partners, mid-sized players have been expanding their premium brand portfolio. Kishor Chhabria-owned Allied Blenders & Distillers (ABD), which had launched Wodka Gorbatschow, premium German vodka priced at Rs 570 per 750 ml bottle this year, plans launching a premium dark rum with a price tag of around Rs 400 in 2009. Deepak Roy, executive vice-chairman and CEO, ABD, said, While the industry is growing at a pace of 20%, the premium segment is growing faster at 30%. The consumers with high buying capability and who are more health conscious prefer high-end brands. The high margins for premium brands push the firms to focus more on the segment, he added. ABD is expecting a 25-30% growth for its new vodka brand next year.

Radico Khaitan, which has its iconic brand, 8PM whisky, is launching three new premium brands - two in whisky and one in brandy - in the near future. The brands are expected to be priced above Rs 550 per 750 ml bottle. The premium whisky category, priced between Rs 500-700, is growing at the rate of 49%. Singapore-based beer giant Asia Pacific Breweries has launched premium beer brand Tiger in 2008. The major wine launch witnessed is of Ferragamo from Italy by Finewinesnmore, priced between Rs 8,000-12,000 in retail shops.