The pandemic has brought about a shift in consumption of alcoholic beverages with more consumers breaking social taboos and consuming spirits at home while also experimenting with premium brands, said a top executive at the local arm of French wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard.
The maker of Royal Stag and Imperial Blue whisky said its Seagram’s 100 Pipers scotch whisky brand grew 19% in volumes in the last fiscal selling over a million cases in the country. In 2018 too, the brand crossed a million cases in annual sales. Pernod’s fiscal year begins on 1 July.
The brand’s premium variant 100 Pipers blended scotch, aged 12 years—launched in 2012 in crossed 100,000 cases in annual sales in India for the first time, the company said. 100 Pipers is the largest scotch brand for Pernod Ricard in India and the largest selling scotch by volumes in the country.
“This is driven by its increased popularity among the younger, aspirational consumers who are resonating strongly with the brand’s purpose-led initiatives due to their uniqueness, authenticity and credibility,” said Kartik Mohindra, chief marketing officer, Pernod Ricard India.
The brand recently launched a new variant—100 Pipers blended malt scotch, aged 8 years as Indians continue to trade up across liquor brands and buy more pricey spirits.
More launches are in the pipeline, said Mohindra. “In the years to come you can expect a few more variants for 100 Pipers. So, we are doing extensive work to understand what the insights are, what are the consumer needs and expectations from the product. And we’re going to use that to craft more variants moving forward. And of course, premiumization is a reality,” Mohindra added.
Pernod Ricard that competes with Diageo-backed United Spirits Ltd., in India operates within the premium plus segment. Its portfolio straddles from Imperial Blue, moving to Royal Stag, Blender’s Pride followed by 100 Pipers—its bottled in India scotch whisky. It also sells Absolute vodka and Beefeater gin the country and more pricey alcoholic beverages such as The Glenlivet and Chivas.
Mohindra said that the covid-19 induced lockdowns last year impacted the overall liquor market.
“So, arguably first two quarters of the fiscal for us, starting with July of 2020, was disrupted heavily as was for the entire industry. Also, most states imposed a covid tax which ranged from anywhere 20% of MRP, going all the way up to 70%,” he said. However, business has since bounced back, albeit the second wave has tempered growth rates. That’s because the number guests at weddings and other social occasions continue to remain capped.
While the company is growing at “encouraging double digits” the forecast had to be adjusted and lowered due to the second wave, he said.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has given rise to newer occasions for alcohol consumption.
“There has been a significant breakdown of social taboos when it comes to alcohol consumption. When the entire household is sitting at home for an extended period of time because of that the out-of-home consumption gradually started coming in,” he said. Consumers, as a result, are clearly “experimenting” more.
Volumes of India made foreign liquor dropped 14% in FY21 primarily on account of the lockdowns in the months of April to July, analysts at Elara Securities said in a report on the alco-bev sector last month. The spirits segment however outperformed beer last fiscal due to reasonable pricing in some states versus premium beer, which triggered a shift to spirits from beer, no storage issues and absence of any significant downtrading trends in the prestige segment, the report said.
Mohindra said consumers are likely to continue indulging in expensive spirits as other forms of self-indulgence remain restricted.