Quick, what comes to mind the minute you hear alcohol in a can? Beer, right? You can almost smell it as you hear the signature hiss as the tab breaks through the can lid. That’s not surprising, considering for the longest time beer has been the only canned alcohol option. But that’s changing. Today you can have wine in a can, pre-mixed cocktails and that new alcohol category—hard seltzers—which has taken the US by storm.
“It’s the simple ease of canned alcohol that makes it attractive,” says Delhi-based beverage industry consultant Magandeep Singh. After all, what can be simpler than popping a can open and sipping the alcohol. Little wonder, the ready-to-drink alcoholic market in India is expected to grow significantly. As per a report by Triton Market Research, the market for alcoholic ready-to-drinks (RTD) in India is anticipated to surge at a CAGR of 10.29 per cent in revenue over 2021-2026. Additionally, in terms of volume, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.15 per cent during the period.
The market is being fuelled by younger customers. “The drinking age is officially coming down... Now with canned cocktails and hard seltzers there are more options for younger consumers who are just getting initiated,” says chef and entrepreneur Tarun Sibal, who runs the culinary bar Titlie in Goa.
Do you enjoy drinking a gin and tonic? You can of course, pour yourself some gin, top it up with tonic and may be a slice of lemon—or you can pop open a can of Bombay Sapphire’s G&T and pour it in a glass over ice or have it chilled straight from the can. Bombay Sapphire recently launched its RTD G&T in a can in Goa. The cans will soon be available in Maharashtra and later in other parts of India. Priced at Rs 180 for a can in Goa and Rs 300 in Maharashtra, it’s way cheaper than ordering a G&T at any bar in Goa.
Pune-based RM Beverages, founded by Viraj Sawant and Sameer Mirajkar, were the first to launch canned cocktails last June. Called ‘In A Can’ they have five flavours. The Vodka Mule is Chief Mixologist Varun Sudhakar’s take on the classic Moscow Mule and is vodka mixed with ginger and lime. Rum Latte has hazelnut and vanilla while Whiskey Collins is a take on the traditional cocktail, mixed with apple and cinnamon. The G&T is a classic combination elevated with the flavour of rosemary. The cocktails are low on calories and have no preservatives. RM Beverages recently received Rs 1 crore for a 10 per cent stake at Shark Tank India.
“We wanted to offer consumers a hassle-free drinking experience with great variety,” says Sawant.
RTD cocktails is a growing category. The charm of being able to enjoy a multi-step cocktail at a moment’s notice was especially advantageous during the pandemic. “A lot of the products that have been launched in the last couple of years are targeting the consumer directly. Home consumption of alcohol has gone up,” says Singh. Some brands have launched RTD cocktails in bottles. BEAT cocktails by Alcopop Spirits recently launched three gin-based cocktails in bottles in Delhi. Another player is Bengaluru-based Salud, which offers six gin-based cocktails.
There is a lot of etiquette attached to drinking wine. From the right glass to the way it is swirled, sniffed and finally sipped, wine lends itself to drama. However, wine manufacturers believe that one can do away with all that and just sip the wine. Wine in a can is for those who would like to sip wine anywhere anytime. “It is extremely convenient, perfect to ‘grab and go’. The perfect solution when I cannot have a bottle and a glass with me; why should I drink a beer when I have a super cool, vibrant, and bubbly wine that I can carry anywhere?” says Grégoire Verdin, Global Brand Ambassador/AVP-Tastings and Marketing for Sula Wines that launched the Dia wine sparkler in January 2020. The canned wine is available in Goa, Daman and Maharashtra and is priced at Rs 180 for 330 ml. Sula has sold 25,000 cases in the past two years and is extremely bullish on the segment. “We believe that the wine-in-can category will form a significant part of the overall wine category in India, similar to what is being observed in more mature wine markets such as the US,” says Verdin. The canned wine category has registered astounding growth in the US— up 69 per cent in June 2019 over 2018, in retail, and totalling $79.3 million in sales, according to a Nielsen report.
Fratelli Wines launched red, white, bubbly and rose sparkling cans under the Tilt brand in October 2020, which are available in 16 states across India. They also have a spritzer under the Noi label. All cans are priced at Rs 160-200 for 250 ml. “Tilt is popular with both young and old alike. If you don’t want to open a full bottle you just have a can,” says Gaurav Sekhri, Director, Fratelli Wines. “Canned wines are not for purists,” says Sibal, adding that he uses a bubbly rose as a mixer in one of his cocktails at Titlie and “it works beautifully”.
Hard seltzers are the newest kids on the block. After having made waves in the US, the category has come to India luring Gen Z with a drink that is different, no-frills, low in sugar and most importantly low in calories. “We don’t hear of a gin belly or a vodka belly; it is only a beer belly and that is because of the gluten. Instead of 220 calories in a pint of beer, there are less than 100 calories in a pint of hard seltzer,” says Manan Tripathi, Founder of Wild Drum that has launched hard seltzers in pure, mango and lemon-mint flavours and which are available in Maharashtra, Goa and Madhya Pradesh. They are available in two differing strengths of ABV (alcohol by volume)—4.75 per cent and 8 per cent. A hard seltzer is 92 per cent water which keeps you hydrated and the buzz is clean with less chances of a hangover.
While most hard seltzers are in cans, Goa-based Pursue has launched four variants—mosambi and mint, strawberry and rose, peach and white tea and mango and chilli—in bottles. Founder and CEO Anish Reddy says they may later launch them in cans. Currently available in Goa and Puducherry, Pursue will be available in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi in a couple of months.
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