Premiumization in the Alcobev sector has accelerated during Covid: Vinay Joshi
Hailing from Lynchburg, Tennessee, Jack Daniel’s, the world’s highest-selling premium whiskey, has picked India as one of the markets for increased investment as part of its global strategy 2025. According to International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR), Brown-Forman controls more than half the country’s American whiskey segment and has grown sales over 20% over the last five years. Brown-Forman India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brown-Forman, one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies, which sells its brands in more than 170 countries worldwide.
As per industry reports, the American whiskey category is gaining rapid acceptance in India for the past several years and has been growing at a CAGR of over 20% every year, with Jack Daniel’s leading the growth. The brand’s plan is to educate consumers here about the nuances of the American whiskey and build meaning with them for the brand through their different consumer engagement activities. The company believes that they have the right portfolio in India to target the different consumer tastes and preferences in the country and the future for Brown-Forman in India is promising.
People in India have always loved their whiskey. There has been a tremendous increase in the cocktail culture and people are trying out cocktails made with whiskey, thus leading to the opening of craft cocktail bars across Tier 1 cities.
Consolidating its leadership position in the flavored whiskey segment, Jack Daniel’s has recently announced the introduction of Tennessee Apple in India. It is the third flavoured whiskey to be introduced in India after Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire. Jack Daniel's is also going to launch another product in India in the Ready To Drink segment soon – the perfect mix of real Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and cola at 5% ABV. In addition to these, JD has also launched JD official merchandise in India consisting of apparels, accessories and barware, which are available in Amazon, Flipkart and other sites.
In an exclusive interaction with Adgully, Vinay Joshi, Marketing Manager – Indian Sub-Continent & Maldives, Brown-Forman, speaks about the brand’s legacy since its launch, marketing strategies planned for 2022, upcoming launches and more.
What has been the legacy of Jack Daniel’s since its launch?
Jack Daniel’s has a very rich legacy, going all the way back to 1866. Established by Jasper ‘Newton’ Daniel in Lynchburg, Tennessee in 1866, the Jack Daniel Distillery is the oldest registered distillery in the United States.
Jack Daniel chose the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee, a 2-stoplight town with a population ~600, for the cave spring in the hollow which produced perfect iron free water for making his Whiskey. Almost every family in Lynchburg has someone working at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
It is steeped in history with a unique production process that has been carefully kept consistent for more than 150 years. Jack Daniel’s whiskey is charcoal mellowed drop by drop. This extra step and unique process, also known as ‘Extra Blessing’, is the reason why Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee Whiskey and not a Bourbon. Jack Daniel’s whiskey is then matured in brand new American oak barrels handcrafted at its own cooperage.
Every drop of Jack Daniel’s is made in the place where Jack Daniel established his distillery in 1866, proof that mastering a craft with a focus on quality can propel a brand beyond borders and cultures.
Today, Jack Daniel’s is a true global icon sold in more than 170 countries around the world and is the most valuable spirits brand in the world as recognised by Interbrand. To this day, we live by Mr Jack Daniel’s words – “Every Day We Make It, We’ll Make It The Best We Can” – and these words continue to be our guiding light in everything we do.
Jack Daniel's has launched Jack Daniel's Tennessee Apple during this festive season. Why was the new launch perfect for the festive season? How has the response been?
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple is one of our latest global innovations and introduction to the Jack Daniel’s Family of Brands. This also expands the offering in our flavour whiskey portfolio, with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire being the other two flavours.
Jack Apple is a deliciously smooth and refreshing apple-flavored whiskey that’s uniquely Jack. It is crafted by mixing the iconic Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, which is charcoal mellowed drop by drop and matured in new American oak barrels with our proprietary apple liqueur made from the highest quality ingredients to deliver a unique Jack Daniel’s experience. I think it is a perfect blend of crisp, green apples enhanced by the sweet bold notes of Jack. It is almost like a freshly picked apple in a glass of Jack.
We launched it ahead of the festive season to leverage the peak festive period opportunity in October, November and December. The brand is already available in a few key markets such as Maharashtra, Goa, Telangana and Gurgaon and we are launching it in Karnataka and Delhi this month.
The approachability of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Apple makes it perfect for festive get-togethers. It appeals perfectly to the evolving consumer tastes and preferences and is perfect for consumers, especially those new to whiskey or non-whiskey consumers looking to try something new and unique. Flavored whiskies have seen amazing consumer acceptance and Jack Daniel's Tennessee Apple is a great addition to that as it brings together two complementary tastes in a new way.
Although it is early days still, the initial response from Indian consumers as well as the trade has truly been amazing and encouraging. We believe Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple has the potential to become one of our power brands in India and will help us drive flavor whiskey portfolio growth, along with Jack Honey and Jack Fire, for Brown-Forman in the country.
JD has also launched JD official merchandise in India consisting of apparels, accessories and glassware. What marketing strategies have you planned for the same? How is it benefitting the growth of the brand?
Globally, officially licensed Jack Daniel’s merchandise is a huge draw among consumers. One interesting fact which not many people know is that a Jack Daniel’s T-shirt is globally the second highest selling item after the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey. Go to any part of the world and you will always spot people wearing a Jack Daniel’s T-shirt. Jack Daniel’s licensed products are sold across 6 continents and over 20,000 retailers worldwide.
For a long time, we were getting numerous requests from Friends of Jack to bring our official merchandise to India. Therefore, we decided to bring it to India and launched Jack Daniel’s merchandise in India in 2019 on India’s leading e-commerce websites such as Amazon and Flipkart as well as select offline stores. However, we believe that it needed a bigger push and a dedicated space for Indian consumers to enjoy the iconic Jack Daniel’s merchandise line. Hence, we collaborated with our licensee in India to launch our own online store for the merchandise in India. Friends of Jack in India can now visit www.jackdanielsmerchandise.in to buy the globally recognised and iconic Jack Daniel’s official merchandise.
The merchandise helps us leverage the powerful equity of our globally iconic Jack Daniel’s trademark by creating additional revenue streams and to connect with our consumers at a deeper level.
Please give us some insights into the latest trends, future plans and upcoming launches of JD in India.
The pandemic has indeed given rise to some very interesting trends while accelerating few others which were already there even before the pandemic.
Driven by lockdowns and safety concerns, we saw a shift in consumption from on-premise (bars, pubs, restaurants) to in-home consumption. People felt more comfortable and safer in consuming their favourite tipple, with friends and family at home. However, with the number of cases coming down significantly and high vaccination rates, we have seen on premise consumption come back strongly, in some cases even surpassing pre-Covid levels.
The pandemic also gave rise to shift in consumption on weekdays vis-a-vis a heavy skew of consumption around weekends post Covid. I believe people want opportunities to break from work from home monotony, relax and have a good time on weekdays, especially in the light of other restrictions.
Another key trend that has accelerated with Covid is premiumization. Consumers today are adopting and upgrading to superior quality and more premium brands. This trend is visible in other categories as well outside Alcobev.
People are also spending more time on digital and social media for entertainment, information and connecting with their loved ones. This has created more opportunities for brands to engage with consumers online.
There has also been a tremendous increase in the cocktail culture and mixology. People are trying out cocktails made with whiskies, in some cases even making these at home which is supported by easy availability of mixers and cocktail recipes online. There are a lot of craft cocktail bars that have come up which have become extremely popular. I think from our point of view, American Whiskies are seeing a renaissance globally, including in India. People are increasingly getting fascinated by mixology – which puts us in a great position because you can make great cocktails with American whiskey.
India has been identified as one of the key emerging markets for Jack Daniel’s as we have seen that consumers are not only upgrading to international spirits, but are also looking for newer expressions of whiskey and brands. Jack Daniel’s as a brand enjoys a preeminent status and we have been able to achieve considerable growth over the past few years, making it the number one brand in the premium American whiskey segment in the country. We plan to build on this by continuing to innovate and evolve for Indian consumers by bringing more offerings and innovations from our global portfolio in future.
How has JD been able to tackle Covid-19 related issues in India, especially with shortages and other challenges across the liquor supply chain?
We reprioritised our approach to engage with consumers and to ensure that our brands continue to be relevant and accessible. We changed our investment approach and re-prioritized off trade, which emerged as the number one channel. We ensured our presence in off trade to communicate with consumers with relevant messaging such as to promote social distancing, leverage in home consumption and to spread cheer around important occasions. We also enhanced our digital engagement efforts to stay connected and relevant to our consumers through various initiatives such as live mixology sessions to name one.
The global supply chain challenges have impacted our industry as others such as Auto, Consumer Electronics to name a few. However, we have managed to mitigate these challenges and grow strongly due to the agility, creativity and dedication of our teams, especially our production and supply chain teams. This has demonstrated the resilience of our people, even in tough and unprecedented challenges, to serve our consumers. Thanks to them, we continue to make new Friends of Jack and reconnect with the existing ones.