In the late 90s, if you asked someone in India about hard seltzers, most wouldn't have been able to distinguish between the fizzy drink and regular soda. However, in the last decade, the space of alternative beverages has grown to accommodate brands offering tonics, mixers, ready-to-drink and non-alcoholic drinks.
Anish Reddy's family-run bottling business works for Diageo's IMFL production in Goa. In the first lockdown, Reddy, who lives between Chennai and Miami, got quarantined in India and noticed the lack of hard seltzer here.
"Hard seltzers are not the canned seltzer water you find in some stores in India that taste like soda. A hard seltzer pint works better than a beer due to its lightness and functions as a cool drink rather than an alcoholic one. We created Pursue to build a brand that appeals to the premium market for its tasteful flavours, Indian origin and sophisticated bottle design."
Pursue currently retails in four variants flavours, is gluten-free and contains no artificial flavouring agents.
The year's food and beverage trend outlooks have indicated significant growth in the alternative beverage space. A Marketwatch report said the mixers market is expected to grow at a CAGR of nine per cent between 2022 and 2025.
A strong portfolio has helped brands like Svami, Jade Forest, Sepoy & Co, and Jimmy's Cocktails capture the booming market for mixers. Seltzers are also finding acceptance amongst the urban audience.
Lavanya Anand of Peer Tonics thinks customers today are more willing to experiment. "For instance, they'll try a bitter lemon and mint tonic as is over a conventional, sweet, lemon-flavoured soft drink," she said. Both Svami Drinks and Sepoy & Co offer premium lemonades in their basket.
Seventy-five per cent of total alcohol consumption in the country happens at home, said Ankur Bhatia, who started Jimmy's Cocktails in September 2019. However, cocktail consumption is more common in bars in Tier I metros, where he saw the potential for growth for the brand with six different cocktail mixers, from Bloody Marys to Whiskey Sours.
Svami prefers to experiment with limited editions in this space, and their Jamun Ginger Ale is one such product.
"We look at the white spaces in the market and identify which mass beverages can do with an upgrade and then decide what to launch,"
said Aneesh Bhasin, founder, Svami. "Our current range covers the needs of both a bar and a direct consumer."
Bhasin indicates the brand may soon launch a new product to complement the Agave or Tequila trend.
Suchir Suri, the man behind Foodtalk India and the Gin Explorers Club, started Jade Forest during the gin boom to address the market's demand for authentic tasting, low-sugar mixers. Today, the brand retails in 23 Indian cities with just five products in its portfolio.
The alternative beverages industry is rapidly developing innovative drinks to make happy times better for the tipplers and teetotallers alike.
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