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Kitty party raises a toast to ‘new age’ flavours

Mumbai, Nov. 15: What do women do at kitty parties' They sip on chilled beer, knock down vodka shots or get mellow on red wine. Or at least that’s what they were supposed to do on Wednesday, attending the “country’s largest kitty party” held at a popular bowling club in the city.

The event, held by Zee TV in honour of their upmarket serial Kittie Party (the “i” and “e” to accommodate numerology) and hosted by writer of the soap Shobhaa De and celeb-foodie Rashmi Uday Singh, was sponsored, among others, by Kingfisher beer and the recently-launched, brightly packaged Romanov Shotz.

It was enough to set the women, mostly middle-aged and real life kitty partygoers from the social jet set, boogeying away to Koi kahe kehta rahen kitna bhi humko diwana... hum hai naye, andaz kyun ho purana from Dil Chahta Hai. That, too, in the afternoon.

As if that was not enough, De asserted that kitty parties were not about bitching — at least not entirely — but about women bonding.

The party took off. Many did stick loyally to their favourite soft drink and ended up jostling before the sumptuous lunch spread, but others made a beeline for the bar, had their fill and thumped back to the dance floor, orange vodka-mix bottle in one hand, when Sharara sharara started to play.

Kitty parties and “ladies-only” dos are no longer not what they used to be. Wine and women may be passé, but with a new legitimacy to drinking for women, it’s not surprising to find kindly matrons serving beer or vodka-orange or gin-and-lime at their kitty parties or “ladies-meetings”. Not only at society happenings, but also in middle-class and upper middle-class Indian homes, for kitty parties cut across classes.

And liquor companies, notorious for their male preference so far, are looking forward to pleasing these women. Especially with the entry of “new age” flavours — a ready-to-drink white spirit mix in fruit flavours of the Romanov Shotz kind or a product like Kingfisher Ice Beer, which is crisper than the regular beer — which go down well with women.

There are more women’s events sponsored by such products. “Before the Kittie Party do, we did a Reebok show,” says a spokesperson for Kingfisher Ice Beer, which belongs to the UB group. “This beer is not meant only for women, but women feel comfortable with it.”

Says Vasant Bhandari of Romanov Shotz (this also belongs to the UB group): “We look forward to supplying the shots to kitty parties or other ladies parties.”

“The primary focus is on a male audience, still, but our surveys show there is a significant growth in women consumers,” said Alok Gupta, spokesperson of the UB group, from Bangalore. “The taste of fruit and its sweetness makes a drink like Romanov Shotz popular with women,” he adds.

Another ready-to-drink mix, Bacardi Breezer, available in orange, lemon and cranberry flavours, also targets the young, trendy and colourful, which is not necessarily male. Smirnoff is also slated to enter the ready-to-drink market, which is shooting up by 30 per cent every year globally. “In India, the ready-to-drink market should go up to 3 to 4 million cases in two years,” says Gupta.

With the increase of the new age flavours, wines, white spirits, low alcohol products and energy drinks, there has also been an increase in lifestyle associations. Consumers want more trendy and sleekly-packaged products now, and the new drinks, if not targeted at women only, are not for men only.

But on the whole, the Indian liquor market remains absolutely male-dominated, with macho whisky drowning the rest. In India, according to Rabobank International and other industry sources, 59 per cent of the market is dominated by whisky, followed by brandy at 19 per cent, rum by 15 per cent and white spirits by only 7 per cent.

The total branded spirits market amounts to 70 million cases.

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