Jack Daniel’s maker Brown-Forman has identified India as one of the key emerging markets for its whiskey.The 150-year-old American company owns alcohol brands, including the Jack Daniel’s family of brands, Finlandia, Korbel, el Jimador, Woodford Reserve, and the Old Forester. Siddharth Wadia, director & general manager – IMENA Region, Brown-Forman talks to Rajesh Ravi about the potential of the Indian market, the impact of pandemic, and high taxes. Excerpts:
India is said to be one of the biggest whiskey markets. What is your outlook on the Indian market, especially the whiskey market?
People in India have always loved their whiskey! With increasing aspirations, disposable incomes, and exposure to global brands, consumers are more willing to experiment, upgrade and enhance their repertoire for different whiskies made across the world. 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. The premiumization of the retail environment has led to a safe and pleasant experience for shopping for Alcobev products making it easier for women to access their favourite premium whiskey brands.
While India has traditionally been a Scotch market, we are witnessing healthy double-digit growth over the past few years. In fact, 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.
Do you feel that premiumization has been impacted in India due to the pandemic?
As an outcome of the pandemic, the social distancing norms, wider acceptability of work from home policies by companies and the new normal of celebrating occasions through video calling mobile applications have led to people spending more time indoors. Thus, a key trend that has emerged has been the shift of Alcobev consumption from outdoors to in-home.
With greater affordability of the premium brands through retail shops and the progressive policies on Alcobev home delivery adopted by a few states, consumers are increasingly making conscious choices on consuming premium brands that elevate the in-home experience. Further, as consumers continue to celebrate special occasions at home, they are more likely to indulge in premium globally trusted spirit brands.
Do you think the high taxes are a deterrent to growth? Do you think good whiskey or liquor is highly-priced in India?
India is an attractive consumer market that offers long-term sustainable growth potential for responsible consumption of all product categories. However, the taxation is indeed high for imported spirits and this is something that impacts not only us but the industry at large as well. We hope the taxes are rationalised in the future to make high-quality global imported consumer brands more affordable for Indian consumers.
What are your plans for the introduction of new brands in the Indian market? The company has said earlier about introducing smaller SKUs in the Indian market.
At the moment, our portfolio in India comprises Jack Daniel’s family of brands, which is our flagship range, Woodford Reserve (Bourbon), Finlandia (Vodka) and El Jimador (Tequila). Each of them has its own space with a unique product proposition which is loved by consumers and adds a lot of value to our product portfolio. We continue to evaluate new introductions and would launch them at the opportune time.
As far as different SKUs are concerned, we had launched smaller SKU’s a couple of years back for Jack Daniel’s to drive affordability and accessibility and it has been received well by consumers.
Could you tell us about your Indian operations in volume and value terms? How much is the CAGR?
In India, Jack Daniel’s as a brand enjoys a pre-eminent status and we have been able to achieve considerable growth over the past few years, making it the no 1 brand in the American whiskey segment in the country.
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. We plan to build on this by continuing to educate consumers here about the nuances of the American whiskey and building meaning with them for the brand through our different consumer engagement activities. We believe that we 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.