The global pandemic Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across continents and has sent many countries including India under lockdown. Shutting down public places have also taken away the livelihood of millions and brought an existential threat to many industries including the beverage and food industry. With social distancing becoming the new norm, how’s the industry, making collective efforts to support each other in these difficult times?
Rojita Tiwari finds out.
Liquor companies supporting the community
As soon as the government issued health guidelines for the public, the first reaction from the industry came in the form of donations and to help produce and supply sanitizer in bulk.
Looking at the surge in demand, major spirits producers in India came forward and offered the extra neutral alcohol (ENA) from distilleries to produce sanitizer. From Diageo India, Bacardi, Beam Suntory, John Distilleries, Jagatjit Industries, Radico Khaitan to Goa Brewing Co, Moonshine Meadery and many others instantly started producing sanitizer in their facilities and offered to the Frontline institutions and health workers.
As a part of its CSR activity Diageo India is producing around 300,000 litres of bulk hand sanitizer across 15 manufacturing units for use by public health care workers in India. The company also plans to give 500,000 litres ENA to the sanitizer industry to enable production of more than two million units (250 ml each) of hand sanitizer.
In continuation of Bacardi’s global initiative, Bacardi India recently announced that it’s producing 70,000 liters of hand sanitizer to distribute primarily amongst district government hospitals. Globally, Bacardi will produce more than 2,67,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) of hand sanitizers.
John Distilleries Ltd. has announced production of hand sanitizer at its distilleries in Bengaluru, Devanagere and Goa. Confirming the news, Michael D’Souza, the company’s Master Distiller based in Goa said, “We’ve been producing hand sanitizer and distributing it to various Frontline institutions. Also, we’ve been involved in creating awareness among migrant workers and villagers about Covid-19, we’ve been screening people within the distillery and outside with infrared thermometers and providing them hand sanitizer and face masks for free.”
John Distilleries is providing 2500 litres of free sanitizers only in Goa and overall 10000 litres across all JDL units in India.
Radico Khaitan, the company with the biggest distillery in the country in Rampur, has already rolled out a branded product ‘8PM Extra Strong Hand Sanitizer’ to be distributed free to government offices and hospitals in and around Rampur.
The industry is also offering support to the community in many other forms.
Beam Suntory is taking steps towards helping the F&B community at this testing time, confirmed Neeraj Kumar, Managing Director of Beam Suntory India. “The current situation has created a challenge for the F&B industry. The on-premise outlets are not able to support F&B staff and bartenders. Beam Suntory India has taken a step towards helping the F&B community at this testing time. We have partnered with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), to pledge support of INR 1 Crore which will provide relief to thousands of staff of member restaurants and their families,” he said.
Pernod Ricard India has also pledged INR 15 Crore to support health care workers in India. According to an official statement the company is working across states to strengthen state government hospital ICUs to ensure the preparedness of health care infrastructure.
Joining this initiative are also companies such as Amrut Distilleries offering sanitizers to the government offices and Frontline workers under CSR activities. India’s first mead producer Moonshine Meadery has also started producing ‘Moonshine Hand Sanitizers’ for governemnt agencies and institutions and not going back to producing meads anytime soon said the company’s recent social media post.
Indian Wine Industry Shows Preparedness
February-March being the harvest season for Indian wineries, amidst lockdown, even the volatile wine industry came together to find a solution. They also provided support to table grape farmers by crushing the excess of table grapes for their low end wines. Yatin Patil, President of All India Wine Producers Association and Director of Vintage Wines said, “Fortunately, being an agricultural produce we were allowed to harvest and with the help of the association – AIWPA, the wineries got special permission from the District Collectors to carry out crushing and operate other critical processes during lockdown. This happened not only with wineries in Maharashtra but also for the wineries in Karnataka.” He stated that many wineries thus could help the farmers by crushing excess table grapes for their low-end wines. As the problem for table grape farmers was huge and many didn’t have options other than leaving the grapes to dry and convert them into raisins.
Bars & Restaurants Join Hands At The Time Of Crisis
The members of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) have tried their best to offer as much support as possible to the needy in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata. The association is also asking for donations from people to offer 10 million meals during the lockdown period.
You can donate by visiting their website here
Fine dining outlets such as Masque, The Table, Taj Hotels, Masala Library and Farzi café are not only offering help the local NGOs to offer meals, but also trying find creative ways to keep their own staff and employees engaged during this time of crisis through on-line skill enhancement programmes.
Yangdup Lama, Partner of SIDECAR and Cocktail & Dreams Speakeasy bars and a renowned figure in the drinks industry shared that they are donating a small amount to NRAI to support their initiative on providing food to the needy and working closely with various bartender groups in helping bartenders and the community stay afloat through participating in various activities and donating the same for various bartender causes.
Svami Progressive Drinks along with NRAI and a few beverage brands have also rolled out ‘Superlative Cocktail League’ initiative to facilitate cash prizes to the winning bartenders. To know more about this please click here
The lead provider of bartending services in the country, Barsolutions has a much difficult task ahead. As the company provides bartending services in the catering and event segment by engaging a lot of freelance bartenders most of whom are the Alumini‘s from Cocktails and Dreams – School of bar and beverage operations who are now suddenly out of work. Kishore Thapar, Co Founder and Director of Barsolutions and The Wedding Bartenders said, “With the pandemic practically wiping out any scope for them to earn what they would otherwise we at Barsolutions have put together a fund where we are ensuring a basic minimum revenue transfer to make sure that their essentials are taken care. Also for any medical emergencies, we are trying our best to reach out and help our fellow bartenders financially.”
Going forward once the lockdown opens, we plan to roll our upgrade programmes at the academy for the Bartending fraternity at no cost and for our regular programme as well there would be scholarships for the needy, he added.
Knowledge Sharing In The Time Of Covid-19
There’s a surge of information and knowledge sharing across all social media platforms and online channels on subjects relating to wines and spirits brands, cocktails, online courses, master classes etc.
Thapar also highlighted various positive initiatives undertaken by the Alco-Bev firms. He said, “The interactive sessions by senior members of the fraternity through various online chat sessions are a great source of information exchange between global and local bar professionals. These sessions are meticulously conducted. It’s overwhelming to realise the way we have come together as a community and positive that we will come out of this situation perhaps even better than before. Importantly as more responsible citizens and professionals – that way everybody wins!”
Commenting on this trend Lama said that they are working closely with the liquor brands to figure out bartender programs. For consumers, SIDECAR is running Thursday Live and conducting cocktail workshops every Sunday on the Instagram page.
In the forefront are also spirits majors such as Diageo with its online Bar Academy programmes managed by the talented brand ambassadors such as Ajay Nayyar (@sokeepwalking), Khushnaz Raghina (@tippling_butterfly), and Mayur Marne (@mayur_marne_).
Beam Suntory India’s Learn and Earn campaign for the bartenders has been a great help to the bartending community. Speaking about the educational initiatives Kumar said, “Beam Suntory is also utilizing The Blend (@the_blend), our global bartender engagement program, to directly reach out and support the bartender community in India. We launched ‘learn and earn’ program to encourage bartenders to use their time at home effectively by taking up online training modules. Reading material and virtual engagement modules are available online, where bartenders can continue staying safe at home and enhance their knowledge and skills. To make the learning experience rewarding, The Blend will host online programs every day, spread across 50 sessions, with prizes for the participants. The initiative represents the spirit of Beam Suntory’s corporate social responsibility efforts, whose mission of ‘Growing for Good’ includes sustainability and supporting local communities”.
Maison India, Pernod Ricard India’s training programme has launched BARSMARTS an online Bartender Education Programme with complimentary access to bartenders to help them craft their skills.
Social media, especially Instagram has become the biggest source to gain knowledge of the drinks industry now. While Nitin Tewari (@MrBartrender) keeps the audience engaged daily with his series of Instagram live chats with beverage industry professionals, Harish Acharekar, Bacardi India’s Brand Ambassador has already conducted a series of online Master classes live on Instagram for not just bartenders but also for anyone who wants to know more about the spirits portfolio of Bacardi.
India’s Top 10 Bar Wizards and Top 10 leading beverage companies are collaborating together in search of India’s Most Knowledgeable BarStar. It’s an online Quiz Tournament spanning over 12 days, 14 beverage categories hosted by Top Ten Industry Experts, an initiative by Releski. Please visit the page here for more details
Zoom Meetings are real thing now. Vishal Kadakia, proprietor of Wine Park the wine importing company organizes regular wine master classes connecting the international wine producers with sommeliers, hoteliers, writers and wine professionals in India.
Sonal Holland Master of Wine is probably one of the busiest during this lockdown. She is spending a lot of time spreading wine knowledge with her ‘60 Minutes Wine pro’ and other Instagram live sessions and informative video updates.
Food Bloggers Association Of India (FBAI) on @fbaidrinks is doing #Liveat5 series talking with experts from the industry about DIY cocktails and discussing other drinks related topics for consumers.
Our social media handle @drinksanddestinations, and many other noteworthy Instagram accounts such as @gigglewater411, @barjockeysclub, @alcobuzz, @tulleeho, @thedramclubmumbai, @thehappyhigh, @thecocktailstory and the only NGO for bartenders in India- Indian Flair Bartenders Association @IFBA are continuing efforts to educate and support the community through informative and engaging posts during this lockdown.
While work from home #WFH has ensured continuity for many industries across the globe, the Food & Beverage Industry in India is going above and beyond to protect the community and ensuring productivity in time of crisis and I am proud to be a part of this family.