LUCKNOW: Foreign brands are lining up in large numbers to woo alcoholic beverage patrons from Uttar Pradesh. The total number of liquor brands registered in the state has gone up to 3,854 during the 202323 fiscal year, the highest so far. In the previous fiscal, 3,106 different alcoholic products were registered.

Local premium brands are slated to face strong competition in the times to come as overseas liquor brands continue to make inroads into the retail sector. The number of imported foreign liquor brands (whisky, vodka, rum, and gin) available in UP has increased from 199 in the previous financial year to 573 this time.

Similarly, non-Indian wine producers have pushed more products while foreign beer manufacturers have increased their offerings too for brew lovers. The number of imported wine and beer products has gone up from 305 to 445 and 34 to 41 in a year. Officials said that the improved scenario, in which end consumers will have more options to choose from, has been possible since the annual excise policy was made robust and flexible.

“We also have the full support of the state government to implement measures that improve the ease of doing business,” said UP Excise Commissioner Senthil C Pandian.

The excise department was also able to generate higher revenues through increased registration of brands with year-over-year (YoY) revenue going up from Rs 18.12 crore to Rs 20.92 crore. In order to attract an increased number of overseas companies, the department decided to do away with the condition which made it compulsory for the company registering foreign brands in UP to submit an authority letter from the principal importer.

“Till March 31, 2023, an individual or entity interested in marketing a foreign brand had to approach the principal exporter to authorize him/her to sell the product in UP. It was a pointless exercise that made no sense and was struck down. Anybody having an ‘imported liquor – bottled in origin license’ could register the brand as a result. That is why we see a sudden rush of foreign brands this year,” said an officer. The increased number of hard liquor brands seems to have dented the demand for brew and beer manufacturers have some challenges to deal with.

A spokesperson of AB InBev India, the company owning Budweiser, Corona among other beer brands, said, “During the last few years, industry-friendly rationalisation of excise tax slabs has fuelled the growth of the beer industry in the state. However, the growth of the beer industry recently has not been in line with the growth of country liquor and hard spirits in Uttar Pradesh. Duty increase on beer earlier this year along with certain technical issues on the excise portal last month led to the surge in consumption of country liquor and hard spirits nudging consumers towards high alcohol strength beverages.

The beer industry volume declined during the summer months due to increased tax, inclement weather in April and due to lack of sufficient price increase.