AB InBev eyes fortunes beyond beer, speeds up entry into global premium categories

INDIA – Anheuser-Busch InBev has plans to launch a series of whiskies, gins, and RTDs in the world’s largest whiskey market, India, as part of its wider strategy to enter into the global premium categories beyond beer.

IWSR says as the largest whisky market in the world and the second-largest importer of Scotch behind France, India has a ready audience of consumers aspiring to be Scotch drinkers.

In addition, India will remain on the radar for all as a priority market, with a strategic goal of sustaining this evident premiumization.

To underpin the IWSR’s findings, AB InBev is piloting Mike’s seltzer and is reportedly set to launch both a blended Scotch and premium gin brand in the fourth quarter of the calendar year, but has insisted that beer remains a core focus.

Being a company that was already selling premium and super premium beers, the Belgian multinational drink and brewing company said it is quite aware of the route to market channels, the classification of those channels, and partners that will help it launch these brands the right way.

The company cited the growth of its brands in India and stated how India is the fifth largest market for Budweiser by volume.

AB InBev’s decision to enter the spirits market has created a lot of fuss in the industry considering that historically, big brewers have stayed away from the spirits market with other companies such as Heineken and Carlsberg only adding RTD products to their portfolios but without exploring the spirits sector any further.

AB InBev India and South East Asia President Kartikeya Sharma revealed: “For Indian consumers, the attitude towards premiumization is category agnostic and the openness to become repertoire users and not be married to one category has never been higher.

“We have looked at the consumers and we saw they want to indulge, as opposed to abusing alcohol and we now have propositions – ready-to-drink, whisky, and gin – that are ready to be launched.”

Both Scotch and gin are among the fastest growing categories with a growth of 42% and 47% in 2021, according to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

Despite global companies Diageo and Pernod Ricard dominating the Scotch whisky category, the premium gin market has, over the past few years, seen local craft players gaining market share, more in India.

According to a market research firm, Statista, revenue in the Spirits segment in India is expected to amount to US$33.14bn in 2022 while also projected to grow annually by 6.57% CAGR during the forecast period of 2022-2025.

Sharna suggested that the growing premiumization trend has also given AB InBev reason to act now and added with the scale returning with double the premium mix two years ago, the cost control being fairly good and focusing on profitable markets versus just driving volume without profitability helped.

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