UB plans foray into ‘craft’ beer market

Kingfisher

India’s largest beer maker United Breweries Limited (UBL) is gearing up to launch its new products in the ‘craft’ (mild beer) and ‘variety’ beer segments this year. The move comes after the company received an encouraging response for its non-alcoholic beverage ‘Kingfisher Radler’ last year and ‘Heineken 0.0 recently, in order to increase its sales and capture growth in the segment.

“There has been a growth of brew pubs in the country as well as the launch of niche craft beer brands in the last few years. This aids in the development of a beer culture in the country,” the company said in its latest annual report.

UBL’s move to enter a new category comes in view of the growing popularity of brew pubs in the country, which have their own brands. “Although India’s craft beer industry is still nascent, the craft beer segment and demand for premium beer in general in estimated to be growing at a strong double-digit rate, albeit from a low base,” UBL said.

The craft beer or mild beer market is rapidly growing in India with first-time alcohol consumers preferring to consume craft beer, said an analyst.

Last year, the company had forayed into the non-alcoholic segment with the launch of ‘Kingfisher Radler’ in three flavours - Ginger Lime, Lemon and Mint Lime - and contains 0% alcohol.

The company claims that Radler is made with 100% natural ingredients and contain approximately 30% less sugar than regular carbonated soft drinks. It contains malted barley and fruit juice. The product is available across major cities in the country and sold through Metro, Big Bazaar and other retail chains.

In addition to this, the company recently launched ‘Heineken 0.0’, a non-alcoholic beer in various markets. The product is made of natural ingredients – water, malted barley, and hop extract, and offers the same great taste of beer, but without the alcohol. The beverage contains only 69 calories, compared to 300 of an average carbonated soft drink, the company said.

The Indian alcoholic beverages market is currently dominated by spirits with whisky being the largest segment, followed by brandy and rum. Beer accounts for about 10% of the total alcohol consumed in India. The total market size of beer by volume was about 360 million cases in year 2018-19. The beer market is growing at about 8% annually.

There are more than 140 beer brands available in the country to address the palate of various consumer segments. Of late, brew pubs have emerged in large cities such as Bengaluru, Pune, Gurgaon over the last few years. These outlets have introduced consumers to new types of beers such as wheat beer. Currently, the per capita consumption of beer is about 2 litres.

For the year ended March 2019, UBL registered 13% rise in volumes, while net sales went up by 15% year-on-year. All key markets, except for West Bengal, witnessed growth. In West Bengal, there was a large drop in consumption on account of a steep duty hike in January 2018.

In the South, UBL saw double-digit volume growth in all the markets except for Karnataka, where growth was restricted to high single digits.

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