The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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White spirit makers on a high

New Delhi, July 13: If the spirits are high, it must be white.

As the idea of being seen with a drink in the hands catches on in metropolitan India, makers of white spirits are uncorking the bubbly. The reason for the celebration: their sales have soared a whopping 25 per cent.

By contrast, Indian made whisky, which accounts for 60 per cent of the European-style liquor or Indian made foreign liquor market (IMFL), has grown just 7 per cent.

“White spirits — vodka, gin and white rum — are the sales toppers in the sub-continent,” said Ramesh Mani, head of Focus Brands, which sells Scottish whisky Cutty Sark and a clutch of other liquor brands in Asia.

However, the sales base for white spirits like Vodka, is low. That could partly explain the spike. But, the fact that the market has doubled in four years, Mani says, has a lot to do with the choice of a whole new generation of young, upwardly-mobile individuals who prefer the urbane flavour of white spirit. “That is also what Yuppies in Europe and the US have a taste for.”.

Indian-made whisky sells 55 million cases a year, while rum sells 16 million cases, gin sells a measly 1.5 million cases and vodka only 6.5 lakh cases. The overall IMFL market is estimated at 89 million cases, which is worth around Rs 9000 crore. But marketers say a 25 per cent growth should see figures changing fast.

Within the white spirits segment, it is the ready-to-drink cocktail mixes that are hot. In fact, liquor giant Shaw Wallace will is trying to jump on to this bandwagon by launching its own ready-to-drink Weba — a 330 ml Vodka bottle that it intends to brew in Mumbai.

“Yes, we do plan to bring our own vodka cocktail soon. White spirits is a very fast-growing segment. We want to be part of the action,” a Shaw Wallace official said.

However, Weba will have to battle it out with other successful RTD cocktails, including Bacardi’s ‘Bacardi Breezer’ — a white Rum based drink and UB’s ‘Romanov Shotz’ — another vodka based cocktail. The RTD vodkas have alcohol content of about 5 per cent, whereas, conventional Vodka has about 40 per cent of alcohol, “which is perhaps makes it attractive to young office going drinkers including lady executives.”

In the conventional Vodka market, the premium segment is ruled by UDV’s ‘Smirnoff’, which has a market share of about 50 per cent. While Shaw Wallace’s 'White Mischief' has a market stake of about 40 per cent.

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