How alco-bev brands are looking to uncork celebrations during this festive season

One memorable image stuck in my head from the lockdown period has been of the serpentine queues of people in front of liquor shops, with no social distancing, when they were allowed to be opened, albeit for a very limited period, amid the strict countrywide lockdown. Avid tipplers were seen walking away with crates and crates of their favourite poison. Even as liquor shops were shut, back/ side door sales were carried on.

With no parties happening, no live events, restaurants, hotels and shops closed, liquor business was staring at a very dry season indeed during the lockdown period. But came some reprieve in the form of select e-commerce platforms being allowed to home deliver liquor.

Now that India has transitioned to the ‘Unlock’ mode, the liquor industry is looking to make up for all those dry days, especially during the festive season. There is indeed a great pent-up demand for alcohol in the country. As per The Lancet report, alcohol consumption in India saw a growth of 38 per cent between 2010 and 2017. A BBC report quoting a study by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, stated that over 663 million litres of alcohol is consumed by Indians, an increase of 11 per cent from 2017, with rising per-capita consumption. The report further states that India is ranked 9th in terms of consumption by volume and is the second largest consumer of spirits – whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, tequila, liqueurs – behind China.

It will be a while before live events are allowed, but that has not stopped the liquor brands from adopting innovative means to keep creating consumer engagement in the current times, such as organising live events online and exploring new channels to increase home consumption.

Home delivery of alcohol via e-commerce channels could be an avenue that brands might explore in the post-lockdown period as well. Overcrowding and ignoring social distancing norms in front of liquor shops led the Government to allow e-commerce platforms to deliver alcohol straight to consumers’ homes. Also, in a bid to control the crowds, a COVID-19 surcharge of 70 per cent was also levied.

The festive season is seen as a driver of sales for all categories, including liquor. House parties, social events like weddings and weddings, could give a boost to the liquor industry. One restriction for this industry is it is not allowed to advertise as the other categories. Hence, more innovative means of creating connect is required.

Giving an overview on how the liquor industry has been hit by the pandemic, Prabhtej Singh Bhatia, CEO and Co-founder, Simba, an Indian craft-beer brand, said, “The alco-bev industry has been one of the hardest hit industries during the current health crisis. Summer season for the industry is the most critical season, with consumer demands at its peak, and contributes to at least 40 per cent of our overall revenue. The ease in Government’s restrictions on sale of alcohol and initiation of home-delivery have all contributed positively towards resuming normalcy. We have reached pre-COVID sales and are looking forward to the festive season to bring in the much-needed respite. We will continue to be heavily focused on music, supporting and providing a platform to upcoming talent. Consumers can expect a series of cool and insightful podcasts and webinars to connect with audiences digitally.”

Singh further said, consumers will be looking to try new products during the festive season to break the monotony and enjoy the season with their family and friends. Consumers will be eager to buy stock for house parties and virtual catch-ups, especially around Diwali. This will definitely boost sales for the industry at-large – both online and offline – for the last quarter of the year and help with business recovery.

“Additionally, Simba Craft Beer is all geared up to diversify its offerings this festive season to offer consumers something new and innovative. Adding to the festivity, we will also be introducing a range of gourmet products in the coming months. We will also continue our Roar from Home series giving people at home a reason to party and enjoy the festive season.”

Sachin Mehta, Country Director - India and Indian subcontinent, William Grant and Sons, is equally upbeat about the festive season. He said, “The overall outlook for the festive season sounds more positive now than it was last quarter. A generally optimistic Indian population continues to look for celebration opportunities, especially in our given conditions. People are now accepting the new normal and looking at positive occasions. With less sales from the travel retail channel, a lot of global purchasing is expected to be from India domestic shops and we are expecting that we will be able to match or exceed our precious seasons volumes.”

A key positive trend emerging is acceptance of drinking at home, which in many parts was still a social taboo. This has also encouraged “responsible” consumption. The frequency of this is likely to increase during the festive season. “This is an appropriate occasion for our Single Malt, Glenfiddich as consumers will upgrade to such offerings during festivals especially within their close-knit circles. On the festive activity, we have planned a few new initiatives this season. Recently we unveiled the new packaging and bottle for our flagship Glenfiddich variants– the 12-Year-Old and 15-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky. Along with that, we are also offering a Glenfiddich limited edition gift pack especially for the festive season,” Mehta added.

He further said, “In terms of customer engagement, the amount of digital consumption has increased many folds and, therefore, we have focused on creating unique experiences and conversations through live sessions with our Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador. We will continue to dial up our digital offerings as consumers are looking for such experiences to add to the celebrations.”


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