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India is the most important emerging market Bacardi is focusing on, says company's top executive

India is the most important emerging market Bacardi is focusing on, says company's top executive

Talking exclusively to BT, Zeenah Vilcassim, Marketing Director, Bacardi India, opens up about the company's plans for India.

Zeenah Vilcassim, Marketing Director, Bacardi India, spoke about the company’s expansion plans in India, launch of new products and variants, and trends in the alco-bev industry in the country. Zeenah Vilcassim, Marketing Director, Bacardi India, spoke about the company’s expansion plans in India, launch of new products and variants, and trends in the alco-bev industry in the country.

Bacardi Limited is the largest privately held spirits company in the world. The family-owned company owns popular brands such as Bacardi rum, Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, Dewar’s blended Scotch whisky and Martini vermouth, among others. We spoke to Zeenah Vilcassim, Marketing Director, Bacardi India, on the company’s expansion plans in India, launch of new products and variants, and trends in the alco-bev industry in the country. Edited Excerpts: 

How important is India as a market for Bacardi in the overall global scenario?  

When our new CEO took over in 2018 the goal was to double our business globally by 2030. And within that, they identified five key emerging markets from where a lot of the growth will come from. India is actually the number one emerging market within those five, and within EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), which is the region which we sit in, we make up over 60 per cent to 66 per cent of the total revenue for that. And that's only at the base level. The plans for India specifically, are five folds of that [our global plans]. So whilst our global organisation was supposed to double its business by 2030, the India business was supposed to 5x its business by 2030. So you can see really where the priority of India is for us globally as an organisation.  

The pandemic hit us hard. But then coming out of it, we saw record numbers of growth. So we're already over two and a half times our business when we set this up. And because of that, we've changed our ambition to actually be not 5x our business but 6x, our business by 2030. So by 2030, we will have six times our business compared to 2018. And that will be driven by brown spirits. So primarily by whiskies -- both in Scotch and in premium Indian whisky, as well. We've launched Legacy in end 2022, as the first step in that scale journey that we have. 

Since growth will be driven by brown spirits, Dewar’s will of course play an important role. How is Dewar’s doing in India? 

So Scotch is still just under 3 per cent of the total whisky in India, but the growth is predicted in double digits. Our whiskey portfolio goes from Legacy to William Lawson's to Dewar's, and then to our premium single malts like Aberfeldy. Dewar's will be the driving force behind our value, not volume, but our value within whiskies. So premiumisation for us within whiskies is huge. Dewar's is growing at double digits way ahead of the Scotch category. And what we're trying to do here is premiumise. The goal is to focus on our 12-, 15- and 18-year-olds. And through that, we know we need to premiumise, everything around it. So we've launched two innovations. Earlier in 2022, we launched Double Double, which is our super premium variant.  

And then we also have the cask series, which is basically to contemporise the whole category. We know that the whisky consumer is now looking for more interesting flavour profiles. They care a lot about the story and about the process. So we created the Dewar's 8 cask series, which is all about the blending of two different casks and the blending of two different cultures.  

The bulk of your revenue comes from which categories? 

We are lucky to be primarily the market leaders in the key categories which we play in. So our biggest categories are still rum and RTD. You know, with the Bacardi range and Breezer, it makes the bulk of our business and we're both market leaders with Bacardi rum and also with Breezer. Then when you look at the next biggest segment, which is our premium white spirits – we are the market leaders in the super premium category with Grey Goose, we are also the market leaders in terms of value with Bombay Sapphire. Our whiskey portfolio is still the smallest contributing to our overall growth. But it's the fastest growing in double digits. So we're looking to see that take over by 2030.  

What was the reasoning behind launching Legacy, an India made whiskey?   

I think with whiskey, it's a tale of almost like two Indias. There's the scale play, and there's the premium play. And we know there's a market for both. Legacy is the first proudly Indian premium whiskey brand in this space. We are focusing on celebrating everything about India that is aspirational. The liquid is proudly Indian, we talk about how it's a mix of Indian malts, Scottish malts, and Indian grain. From a commercial standpoint, it gives us that muscle, because the Indian whisky space is still over 95 per cent of the market. Scotch is still about only 3 per cent. And so while we have big goals for Scotch and our value will be driven by Scotch, we know that we also need a scale player to help give us some of that trade muscle and Legacy will help us do that. 

Bombay Sapphire Sunset is a new limited-edition variant that you recently launched. Do you need to constantly reinvent yourself? 

Gin is the fastest growing category in India right now. It’s a very small base but it’s growing very fast. At Bombay Sapphire we are committed to innovation because everybody has gone gin crazy and the gin consumer is the most explorative consumer that's out there. So the same consumer is drinking local craft gin at Rs 1100 price point, all the way to international players at a Rs 5000 price point. And they're trying everything in between. So they're looking for interesting botanicals, interesting stories, and something that is new and unique that they can then talk about. It also plays to the premiumisation trend that India and the world has been seeing in the spirits category. So for us that commitment to innovation has meant that we focused on creating limited editions and innovations for Bombay Sapphire at a global level. One of the new innovations is the Bombay Sapphire Sunset, which is made with Indian turmeric, Indian white cardamom and Spanish Mandarin peel. This is a global innovation that is created as a one run. So once it’s over, it’s over. It’s very, very limited. India wasn't initially on the list of markets that was in line to get this innovation. But we were like this is perfect for the Indian consumer. It is just the first of many to be launched in India. 

Could you tell us a little more about the Grey Goose House of Change concept? 

The hospitality industry has been hit hard. There are redundancies all around. A lot of the good bartenders are moving abroad for job opportunities. So we were like how do we elevate the bartender community in India specifically. Over the past few years, Grey Goose House of Change has been doing that by training bartenders. However, in 2022 we wanted to ramp it up. So we focused on a fully integrated 360 degree campaign about developing all the skills of our most naturally talented bartenders in India, from presentation skills to style to storytelling to mixology, and everything in between. We tied up with Singapore Tourism Board as a two stage approach. We chose the bartenders in India through a competition. And then we did trainings for them in India. Phase two was a fully scaled up program in Singapore, where the Singapore Tourism Board took the ownership of creating the itinerary. And we took six influencers as well to kind of do workshops with them throughout. And now they've come back into India. And what we've seen worked really well was that partnership with Singapore Tourism Board and the ability to showcase to the Indian community, what the rest of the world is doing within the bartender space. And so next year we'll be looking to do the same thing. So either with Singapore Tourism Board or with another tourism board to create that aspirational angle for the bartenders so they can take their skills internationally. 

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Published on: Jan 16, 2023, 5:05 PM IST
Posted by: Tarab Zaidi, Jan 16, 2023, 4:52 PM IST