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New-age spirit-makers blend fresh innovations

Hrithik Kiran Bagade, June 1, 2015, Bengaluru, DHNS 23:02 IST

From craft beer to fine wine, everything is available on tap

New-age spirit-makers are bringing out innovative products and services to make the most of the country’s thirst for delectable liquors.

Craft beers constitute a new segment in India’s beer market, which is $5 billion in retail value (larger than soft drinks), and mostly dominated by traditional strong brews sold in 650 ml bottles at retail shops.

Delhi-based Cerana Beverages is betting big on the new trend and plans to take Indian craft beer, pan-India. In 2013, the company was the first to launch craft beer with an ‘Indian’ identity, introducing the brand, Bira 91 — low bitterness wheat beer Bira 91 White, and extra hoppy craft lager Bira 91 Blonde — which is manufactured under contract in Belgium, and sold in India.

“We are attempting to focus on the demands of the young consumers. It’s an attempt of transcending consumers’ tastes from high alcohol-led tastes to experience-led tastes. We are primarily focusing on draught beers, and the format of tap beer in bars as well. In terms of bottles, we will be looking at 330 ml packages,” Ankur Jain, Founder and CEO of Cerana Beverage, tells Deccan Herald.

A craft beer is made using natural ingredients, traditional recipes and brewing processes, with high priority being laid on quality, rather than volumes.

Cerana’s beers currently cost Rs 150 for a 330 ml bottle, but is likely to cost less than Rs 100, owing to a plan of opening domestic manufacturing by the end of this year.

The craft beer segment is 0.5 per cent of the total beer market in India, but may hit around 15 per cent in the next eight years, Jain feels. Cerana is also aiming at revenues of Rs 100 crore by the end of this year, with around 10,000 retail points in the future.

Fine wine, anyone?

While talking of fine wine, all that matters is its highest quality improving with age. A country of growing HNIs, India has tasted fine wine and is asking for more.

India’s wine scene boasts of around 1.75 million cases of domestic wine sold, with 350,000 cases of imported wine sold, annually. Fine wine is still exclusive. “The amount of fine wine produced has not changed, but there is more demand that supply,” sommelier Nikhil Agarwal, who is Director of All Things Nice, a fine wine investment services company, affirms.

“There are two types of investors in fine wine: Those who are passionate about consuming it, and those who want to buy a few cases for sale at a later stage,” Agarwal says.

All Things Nice, which recently announced a partnership with UK’s Amphora Portfolio Management to secure India’s first fine wine investment services, advises customers about everything wine: Where to buy the best wines, quality of vintage, risk appetite, why one may invest in fine wine, and when to buy and sell, and so on. Fine wine, which is priced between 1,000 and 100,000, is a rare type of wine, made by a few traditional vintners around the world, constituting 0.5-1 per cent of total wine produced globally.

All Things Nice is involved in providing expertise on fine wine, even to hotels, corporates and restaurants. It also helps source fine wines from around the world, such as Chateau Margaux (Bordeau, France), Dominus (Napa Valley, California) and Sassicaia (Toscana, Italy).

Charging an agency fee for rendering advice under contract for five years, the company claims to have facilitated investment worth some crores of rupees.

“Currently, fine wine investment is growing in the US, Hong Kong and Europe. But India is getting wealthier, and we believe the trend will grow here too. Our intention is to have a 100 clients,” Agarwal concludes.

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