After a successful stint with Budweiser Beer, Anheuser-Busch InBev aka AB InBev is now set to launch whiskey Magnum Double Barrel. The company claims that India is now amongst the top five markets for Budweiser globally. In a conversation with BrandWagon Online Vineet Sharma, vice president – marketing, Anheuser-Busch InBev talks about the idea to enter the premium whiskey segment. (Edited Excerpts)
What made you enter premium whiskey market in India?
Beer will continue to remain our core offering for AB InBev India, but we will introduce India specific innovations across beverage categories (alcoholic and non-alcoholic segments). As the second largest spirits’ market in the world with 10% of global spirits consumption that also enjoys the benefits of favourable demographics, trends complimentary to premiumisation, a positive outlook on EODB (Ease of Doing Business) and policy, India’s alcohol beverage industry presents an undeniable economic opportunity. We see a huge opportunity for premium offerings across the beverage category, in line with our overall premiumisation strategy. While the Indian alcohol beverage industry is extremely competitive with legacy brands and newcomers a like innovation, inclusion play an integral role in our strategy to lead and grow the beverage category. As a consumer-first organisation, we are actively listen to our consumers and tracking trends, behaviours. For Indian consumers, the attitude towards premiumisation is category agnostic.
We have already seen a lot of success with our brands such as Budweiser, Corona, among others. We are the second largest player in the market. You know, we believe we understand Indians, Indian pulse and Indian consumers as well. If I were to just rewind the clock and take it back to 2011, India was the first market where we introduced Magnum. This was also the first innovation in the Indian market. We next launched Budweiser 0.0 which is a non-alcoholic beer. Today we are once again rolling out yet another innovative product – Magnum Double Barrel – a blended American whiskey.
As the brown liquor market is getting very competitive in India, who do you plan to take on competition?
India is now amongst the top five markets for Budweiser globally. With a proven track record of a successful India innovation (Budweiser Magnum beer), we are now foraying into the world’s largest whiskey market with Magnum Double Barrel whiskey. While the share of the throat for beer in India grows, the Indian alcohol beverage market has been dominated by darker liquids, with whiskey accounting for 72% of total spirits’ consumption in the country. The Indian whiskey market is projected to grow at CAGR (2021-26) of 4.2% when compared with a CAGR (2021-22) of 17%. For most Indian drinkers, a population that is predominantly male, whiskey is an aspirational drink and the elemental choice for most. Widespread up-trading was evident pre-pandemic; As millennial consumers see a rise in disposable income that allows them to experiment.
Interestingly, Indian consumers currently do not favour just one kind of beverage, as they are keen on experimenting and have developed different palettes. So we are inspired by consumers. The third inspiring factor is Magnum – the brand. We launched this a decade back and now we are in the process of starting a chapter Magnum has a premium positing in the minds of consumers here. The culture of premiumisation along with the brand’s positing was the inspiration to enter the premium segment. Of course, competition is only getting stronger. Magnum Double Barrel is sourced and blended in partnership with Sazerac through their Indian subsidiary JDPL. This has led to the birth of a new category of blended American whiskey – a first for the Indian audience. This goes beyond partnering with finest in the business, the collaboration which has companies with similar DNA coming together to reimagine, reinvigorate the category as a whole.
How do you plan to distribute the newly launched product?
As we are the leader in the beer segment, we are very aware of distribution. We know the outlets whether its on-trade or off-trade. As we already have developed a good relation with our partners. So for them the brand will only add as a compliment to the portfolio. However, we have been selective in terms of outlets we want the brand to present. Furthermore, even within these markets, the brand is being sold only in premium outlets. We want to learn and understand what is working. Magnum Double Barrel is available across leading alcohol retail outlets in Maharashtra at Rs. 2,800, Goa at Rs. 1800 for a 750ml bottle and soon will be available in Karnataka, Haryana, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
How do you plan to promote the brand?
In order to market the brand we have launched new brand campaign, ‘Make New Happen’ – which tells consumers to create or rewrite their rules. The idea is to make whiskey more accessible, and relevant to young drinkers above the legal drinking age. We also are in the process of tying up with events and festivals.
New habit. That’s the angle that we’re taking. Recently, you might have seen we have announced Lollapalooza that’s happening in Mumbai. We are a proud partner of that. So events in sampling will be another big lever of the brand. Of course, we want to seed it in a sequential manner. Right now it’s all about the right liquid like sampling and getting feedback form for the consumers.