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Liquor, Beer consumption took maximum hit during pandemic, sales robust now: Prem Dewan, Devans Modern Breweries

Beer production is a very sophisticated and technical process and the quality of beers produced depends on a variety of factors, which complement each other.

Godfather beer, liqour, Indian spirit brands, Devans Modern Breweries Ltd, Tuborg, Carlsberg, Budweiser, Heineken, Kingfisher, Covid
North and East India, which is our main area of operation is quite cold this time of the year and beer consumption is relatively low but refined.
Indian spirit brands have made some noise in the market, with vocal for local undoubtedly taking the lead. There have been some iconic brands in this sector that have started expanding their presence and have become active in terms of expansion and consumer connect activities. To delve into the developments in the segment and get an understanding of how the ecosystem is evolving, Financial Express Online spoke with Prem Dewan, MD, Devans Modern Breweries Ltd., which is the manufacturer of iconic beer brand Godfather and holds around 3% of the beer market share in the country. Excerpts from the interview:

What made you choose this time to scale the marketing and other communication activities for the decades-old brand?

We invest our resources on a large scale on expansion activities and for creating facilities for improving our products, which were our primary objectives. As such we could not spare much funds for marketing.The only reason our Godfather has been around for 30 years and has held on to its loyal fans is because of this dedication to quality. The company lays huge stress on quality functions and is always on the lookout for improving the quality of its products. This is borne out by the number of awards we have been winning in the national events and now even in international events. Our Kotsberg Pils won a silver medal at the Brussels Beer Challenge,2021 which is one of the most recognized and prestigious beer competitions in the world.

With the new year around the corner, what all consumer connect activities are in the pipeline?

North and East India, which is our main area of operation, is quite cold this time of the year and beer consumption is relatively low but refined. We have planned for expanding our premium brands in the States of Assam and Jharkhand during this period. Our main marketing focus is on digital marketing followed by tie-ups at unique events. We have also started promotion activities at bars in various cities.

What creates the difference in taste when it comes to beers – ingredients or brewing process?

Beer production is a very sophisticated and technical process and the quality of beers produced depends on a variety of factors, which complement each other. It is one product where you have infinite possibilities of experimenting with raw material mix and process parameters. All factors play an important role in the quality of the final product and one cannot pinpoint any one process or thing for the purpose. Everything is important – right from the quality of the raw materials, additives, process control, procedures, parameters etc. Even a small deviation in any one of the above can make a big difference to the quality of the finished product.

Godfather beer, liqour, Indian spirit brands, Devans Modern Breweries Ltd, Tuborg, Carlsberg, Budweiser, Heineken, Kingfisher, Covid
Prem Dewan(sitting), MD, Devans Modern Breweries Ltd

Where are your beers manufactured and how diverse is the range? Apart from beer, what other liquors do you manufacture?

Our beers are primarily produced in two of our plants – Kotputli brewery in Rajasthan and Samba brewery near Jammu. While the former is spread over 30 acres with a production capacity of 75,000 KL of beer, the latter has a production capacity of 39,600 KL of beer. Our flagship beer brand Godfather is a Strong Lager which comes in different variants such as Godfather Super 8 and Godfather Legendary. We also have a light lager Kotsberg  Pils, which recently won a Silver Medal in the renowned Brussels Beer Challenge, 2021. Apart from Lagers, we also brew Belgian Style Wheat Beers under the umbrella brand Six Fields which has two variants Six Fields Blanche (4.5% ABV) and Six Fields Cult (7% ABV). Apart from beers, we have been selling our malt spirit to major liquor groups for the past 25 years.

Where do you see the market going in 2022 and what do you expect from your brands?

We expect the beer market to really explode during 2022 provided there are no hiccups provided by COVID. There is a huge pent up demand waiting to be released during the summer of 2022 as the last two summers have been virtual write offs due to the pandemic. So probably we will see the cumulative growth of 3 years being subsumed in the summer of 2022.

What are your plans in terms of product portfolio expansion for both beer and other liquors?

We have plans to expand our liquor portfolio extensively. As for the beers, we have launched two new brands this year; both are Firsts in their respective categories. Godfather Super 8 is India’s Strongest Beer with an ABV of 8% which is the maximum allowed limit for beers in the Country and Six Fields Cult with an ABV of 7%, is the only Belgian Style Strong White Beer in the Country. We have also launched draught beer in 5L Cans thereby giving a unique experience of drinking ‘Beer on the Tap’ at home. The draught beer cans   come with an inbuilt CO2 cartridge to keep the beer fresh with every pour. Devans is the only brewery in the country with this facility.

We have also done trial production of flavored beers and plan to launch them next year and are pretty confident of their success.

How do you see competing with International and homegrown brands?

Most of the mainline brands in the north now are international brands e.g. Tuborg, Carlsberg, Budweiser, Heineken. Even Kingfisher where UB is now a Heineken group company. I would say our main competition in the North is with the International brands where our focus on quality is certainly going to keep us in good stead. The volume of the homegrown brands is not much and they mostly deal in cans.

What has been the beer consumption trend during the pandemic?

Liquor and Beer consumption has taken the maximum hit during the pandemic. Liquor is a controlled commodity, which operates completely under the licensing system, and liquor shops were the easiest to monitor and as such suffered the most due to shutdowns and lockdowns. Substantial liquor, especially beer, is consumed in bars and hotels, which remained under extended lockdowns last year due to travel and operation restrictions. The pandemic was at its peak during the summer of ‘21 and even thereafter which is the main period for beer consumption and as such beer consumption fell drastically.

Things were better this year but the pandemic raised its head again in May this year i.e. right in the middle of the beer season resulting in huge fall in sales. However, beer consumption has picked up and sales are quite robust at this moment.

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