The top 10 best-selling Indian whisky brandsBy Kristiane Sherry
Challenges abounded across the Indian whisky market in 2016. But which brands stood strong while others crumbled under pressure? Fortunes were mixed among the world’s biggest-selling brands.
If there’s one word to describe the growth in the Indian whisky segment in 2016 it would be ‘patchy’. From creeping prohibition laws to demonetisation and changes to alcohol retailing legislation, the category faced real challenges and volumes were squeezed.
Yet despite the testing business environment, some whiskies flourished. Our 2016 Brand Champion, Radico Khaitan’s 8pm, saw volumes soar by more than 37%, with Pernod Ricard’s Blenders Pride and United Spirits’ Hayward’s Fine also securing double-digit growth. Elsewhere in the top 10, four more brands managed to push on into positive volume territory, proving that it is possible to maintain growth in tough times.
Will the category’s fortunes improve looking forward into 2017? As regulatory changes stabilise, it is likely that producers will enjoy a period of calm. But others are adapting – and if United Spirits’ move to a franchise model is any indicator, we can expect to see the structure of the Indian whisky industry shaken up. The question is which brands will capitalise on this new normal to flourish.
Click through the following pages to discover the top 10 best-selling Indian whisky brands, listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.
For more recent best-selling Indian whiskies, check out the top 10 from 2021 Brand Champions report.
2017: 5.65m nine-litre cases
% change: +37.8%
Place last year: 10
Our 2017 Indian Whisky Brand Champion, Radico Khaitan’s 8pm put in a stellar performance in the last calendar year to reverse four years of declines and post remarkable 37.8% gains. How was this turnaround achieved in such a challenging economic climate? A repackaging exercise was key, according to Pallavi Kapoor, deputy general manager marketing, at Radico Khaitan. The new 180ml Tetra-Pak format not only offered “value for money”, she said, but also made it easier for the brand to reach remote locations in the domestic market. The results have been impressive, and we look forward to seeing how the momentum might continue on into 2017.
9. Blenders Pride
% change: +10.93%
Place last year: 9
Said to hold 50% of the premium whisky market in India, Pernod Ricard’s Blenders’ Pride is a major player in the category – and one which looks set to keep climbing up the ranks. The brand continued its consistent upwards sales trajectory in 2016, posting close to 11% volume gains. In fact, over the past five years, the brand has added almost 2.2 million cases to its total sales – an impressive figure. With growth looking set to continue, we predict Blenders Pride to catch rival Bagpiper in 2017.
% change: -2.78%
Place last year: 7
One of United Spirits’ brands to remain in-house after others were franchised, Bagpiper faced a tricky year in 2016. Sales slipped by 2.78% for the year, but against a backdrop of prohibition, especially in the populous Bihar state, this has to be seen as a reasonable performance. Add in the SWA’s ruling in January 2016 to curtail exports from the brand over fears it could be confused with Scotch, and it becomes clear that 2015’s -15.4% declines actually gave way to an apparent period of stabilisation.
7. Hayward’s Fine
% change: +10.81%
Place last year: 8
Hayward’s Fine has leapfrogged its United Spirits sibling Bagpiper up the table by one space thanks to impressive 10.81% gains. This figure is made all the more remarkable considering the brand’s 2015 figures have been revised upwards from 6.55m cases to 7.40m, reducing the growth rate from 25.2%. It’s a significant change in fortunes for the brand, given that the 2015 numbers showed a 37.2% volume sales collapse linked to chairman Vijay Mallya’s turbulent departure from United Spirits.
6. Old Tavern
% change: -6.38%
Place last year: 5
Another United Spirits Brand to feel the pinch and drop a place in the Best-Selling Indian Whisky list is Old Tavern. After posting more than 6% volume gains in 2015, the brand shed 600,000 cases in the last calendar year. Emerging markets are a key focus for the brand, especially across Africa. It seems global economic challenges are behind the contraction, which could make it tricky for Old Tavern to simply bounce back as its native India stabilises.
5. Original Choice
% change: -5.56%
Place last year: 6
Moving up a place in the bestselling standings is John Distilleries’ Original Choice. But a weaker performance in 2016 means that it had to capitalise on the weaker performance of Old Tavern to climb the rankings. Nevertheless, the volume contractions come during a challenging period and after two years of solid growth – as the Indian consumers and the trade adapt to the changing legislative landscape we expect to see Original Choice bounce back.
4. Royal Stag
% change: +4.11%
Place last year: 4
Pernod Ricard’s second-largest spirits brand shifted just shy of 18 million nine-litre case sales in 2016 – an impressive figure representing 4.11% gains and one which closes the gap on its sibling brand Imperial Blue. With just 20,000 cases now between the two, could it be all change at the top of the Pernod tree in 2017?
3. Imperial Blue
% change: +2.91%
Place last year: 3
After a stonking rise in 2015 (the brand posted tremendous volume gains of 24.47%) it would be unrealistic to expect Imperial Blue to maintain its remarkable momentum. Even so, witnessing growth slow to 2.91% feels like something of a disappointment. But Pernod clearly backs Imperial Blue, a blend of Indian grain and imported Scotch malts and has made an array of formats available from 2-litre bottles down to 90ml packs.
2. McDowell’s No.1
% change: +3.66%
Place last year: 2
United Spirits’ McDowell’s hit the headlines throughout 2016. In addition to moving distribution to Guinness Nigeria in Africa, the brand will be renamed internationally following pressure from the SWA. For better or worse, McDowell’s has retained trade mindshare, and as such volume sales climbed 3.66% for the year.
1. Officer’s Choice
% change: -0.15%
Place last year: 1
The world’s largest Indian whisky brand, Allied Blenders’ Officer’s Choice sits pretty at the top of the tree. While many of its competitors saw declines in the shifting marketplace, the brand kept losses to just 0.15% for the 2016 year and remains a good seven million cases ahead of its nearest rival. It boasts around 40% of the Indian market, and this behemoth looks set to hold its position for the years to come.