In 2019, the global drinks major Bacardi introduced Cask Series to the whisky portfolio, intending to capture the changing consumer preferences across the globe. DEWAR’S Japanese Smooth Scotch Whisky is the newest addition to the series in India. It combines the processes of two historic whisky-making cultures (Japan and Scotland) in a single bottle, says Vijay Dev, Category Lead – Global Whiskies, Bacardi, in an exclusive interview with Drinks & Destinations. Here are the excerpts.

Vijay Dev, Category Lead – Global Whiskies, Bacardi

Can you comment on the ongoing popularity of whisky in India and where does DEWAR’S Japanese Smooth stand in the segment?

India is one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverage markets and also the number one market for whisky, globally. As per IWSR 2021 insights, India is also the largest whisky-drinking nation by volume, making product innovation in this segment a priority for us. Today, there is also a massive demand for premiumization and experimentation in the country. 26% of alco-bev consumers In India are expected to move to higher brands and 24% are expected to spend on newer categories of alcohol by 2030, as per ICRIER 2022. In addition to this, the popularity of Japanese culture and cuisine has been steadily increasing in India. These trends have cumulatively opened up avenues for us at DEWAR’S to not only get creative, but also excite our Indian consumers with new, unique, and premium drinking experiences. 

Our Cask Series was introduced globally back in 2019 to offer consumers a window into the beauty of unique flavors from across the world. Given the recent trends in the Indian market, we have recently launched our latest addition to the existing Cask Series, the DEWAR’S Japanese Smooth Scotch Whisky in India. This premium Scotch whisky, which offers consumers a truly extraordinary drinking experience by combining the processes of two historic whisky making cultures of Japan and Scotland in a single bottle, is the first of the portfolio to be launched in India. The Scotch whisky is aged with the DEWAR’S signature double-aging process, and then further matured in traditional Japanese Mizunara Oak casks, a process that is over 200 years old. This creates the one-of-a-kind premium drinking experience that the discerning Indian consumers have been looking for, and we are confident that it will be savored by those who are looking for something new and unique. As per IWSR 2021 findings, Scotch in India is expected to continue to be one of the fastest growth segments, making it an ideal time for our latest Scotch whisky innovation as well.

Please share details on the latest expressions from DEWAR’S portfolio and market acceptance for the same.

This year has been an exceptional one for DEWAR’S, as we recently celebrated 120 Years of DEWAR’S in India. Marking this special year, we introduced some of our most exciting products to the Indian market in 2022, such as the DEWAR’S Double Double series, and the more recently launched, DEWAR’S Japanese Smooth Scotch Whisky. Both of these products have already received tremendous response from consumers as novel and premium drinking experiences for them to enjoy.

Since we first set our foot in Calcutta in 1902, we have constantly innovated for the ever-evolving palate of our consumers. Over these 120 years we have kept a pulse on the evolving consumer tastes, pushing boundaries, and innovating to enrich their drinking experiences. Our consumers are at the heart of everything we do, and we look forward to offering them new experiences that continue to excite them in relevant and meaningful ways. Our central commitment to consciously understanding Indian consumers remains as strong as ever, and we are confident that the diversity and quality of our premium portfolio will continue to resonate with our Indian consumers for years to come.

What’s the latest trend in whisky consumers in India?

The trends in the Indian market, both pertaining to whisky and other spirits, are constantly evolving with consumer tastes. India presently is the largest whisky market across the globe, and the second-largest importer of Scotch, after France. Indian and Scotch whiskies are dominant categories in this segment due to their evergreen appeal, but we are further seeing a rising trend in consumers willing to experiment with their whisky. Enthusiasts and newcomers alike are exploring newer categories of Japanese, Irish, and Bourbon whiskies in search for unique drinking experiences. As per IWSR 2021 insights, super-premium spirits have grown by approximately 74% from 2020 to 2021 in India, and this pull towards premiumization can be seen across the whisky segment as well – Modern Indian whisky consumers are showing a preference to drink less but drink better, with a widespread up-trade within the Indian whisky space and from Indian whisky to Scotch. The findings from Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Survey 2022 echo this sentiment, with nearly half of the respondents in India (45%) expressing their interest in drinking cocktails that contain high-quality spirits and liquors. The new-age whisky drinker demographic is evolving as well, with a significant uptick in the number of female drinkers moving to whisky. They are also generally more open to trying out new brands and modes of drinking such as highball serves and cocktails, with whisky highballs ranking as the eighth most globally sought-after cocktail as per the Bacardi Cocktails Trends Report 2023. The growing popularity of the Whisky highball has pre-empted future forward Alco-Bev brands to create experience centric to flavor. 2023 as a year is expected to have a mushrooming culture of cocktail aficionados and the 2022 Bacardi Consumer Survey clearly indicates the same. The survey reveals that 9 in 10 consumers in India would be willing to spend more on spirit or liquor brands which stand for sustainability, making it a trend to watch out for this upcoming year.

What’s the y-o-y growth for Bacardi and DEWAR’S in India?

As the world’s largest market for spirits across categories, India ranks as the number one emerging market for Bacardi. We anticipate that 40% of global growth in the spirits sector will come from emerging markets, with India being the largest contributor. Keeping this in mind, we began the journey of making it the Best 10 Years Yet for Bacardi India in 2019, where we set the goal to deliver 5x our business results in India by the year 2030. Now, in the fourth year of this journey, we are closer to accomplishing this goal, recording exponential growth in the last three years despite the pandemic-led slowdown. 

Focusing on DEWAR’S specifically, the brand has grown significantly in terms of both volume and value in the standard, value and premium segment. Innovation is critical to us at Bacardi in order to remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve. We have been expanding our premium spirits range with the recent launch of the DEWAR’S super-premium Double-Double range. These milestones speak for themselves in terms of Bacardi and DEWAR’S maintaining a strong growth trajectory in the market, cementing Bacardi’s position as a leader in the white and brown spirits categories as well, in India.

Please comment on Bacardi’s future road map.

Bacardi is already an established market leader in the white spirits segment, maintaining its strong performance in the area. But India continues to present an exciting growth opportunity in the brown spirits segment as the number one market globally for whisky as per the IWSR 2021 report. The IWSR 2021 data further reveals that 97.2% of the whisky industry is today dominated by Indian whisky, with a projected CAGR of 4.1% from 2021-26 for the overall whisky industry, making it an opportune time for us to innovate in the segment.  In the whisky category, scotches have a 2.6% market share as the aspirational drink, which is pegged to grow at 7.1% (CAGR 2021-26) in next 5 years.

These trends have cumulatively fueled our interest in the brown spirits category as well, which is primed for its next stage of evolution in the alcobev space. As we look to expand our already robust portfolio in the segment, our goals are to establish Bacardi as a major player in the space and bring the signature level of premium appeal and innovation to the category with new products and ranges that will resonate with our consumers. We have begun this process with our recent launches of a host of brown spirits in the market including our Indian-made whisky LEGACY, the DEWAR’S Japanese Smooth Scotch Whisky, and made-in-India GOOD MAN brandy. Given the rise in demand for premiumization, we have also been expanding our premium spirits range with the recent launch of the DEWAR’S super-premium Double-Double range. Additionally, our diverse global portfolio includes over 200 brands, out of which 28 are in India and we are constantly looking to introduce products and brands that add value to the Indian consumers and offer them an elevated drinking experience. As Bacardi continues to grow as a serious competitor in the brown spirits space, our consumers can expect more competitive and exciting innovation in this category in the future.

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