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Indian Whisky Brand Champion 2018: Imperial Blue

Imperial Blue witnessed consistent growth year after year

Pernod Ricard’s biggest Indian whisky brand, Imperial Blue, edged ever closer to the 20m case barrier in 2017. Despite a turbulent domestic market, the brand has managed to retain the number-­three spot in the list of best­-selling Indian whisky brands after seeing consistent growth year after year. For this reason, it has been named 2018 Indian Whisky Brand Champion.

The brand has benefited from its ‘Men will be Men’ campaign and has stuck in consumers’ minds with “quirky, relatable, yet insightful messaging”. “Over the years, the campaign has gained cult status and become one of the most iconic campaigns in the country,” says Kartik Mohindra, chief marketing officer at Pernod Ricard India. “Each new leg of the campaign is eagerly awaited, enjoyed by consumers and is heavily shared and circulated by brand loyalists.”

And Mohindra is keen to target the younger market. “Our focus has always been to keep ourselves relevant to the young, middle-­income whisky consumer through our brand values, along with quality and consistency in product. This focused approach has enabled us to sail through the difficult times, like when demonetisation came in.” The brand has also associated with music and football to connect with its target audience.

Mohindra is convinced Imperial Blue will continue its growth and stay ahead in the category. “Quality and consistency have been the key drivers for our success. We will continue to channel all our efforts to deliver value ahead of the curve to our consumers, and ensure that the brand messaging and experiences evolve continuously to stay relevant to the young whisky consumers.”

John Distilleries-­owned Bangalore Malt Whisky also flourished, with volume sales skyrocketing 69.8% to 3.5m cases in 2017 – a huge jump for a relatively small player in the category. It’s even more impressive given the tempestuous few years Indian whisky has had. The sector was hit by a blanket ban on alcohol sales within 500 metres of any highway, as well as an outright ban on spirits in Bihar and Kerala.

But this hasn’t stopped producers from tapping into the trend for premiumisation and challenging preconceptions of the country’s ability to produce high quality spirits. While legislation has hit sales, it seems an increased spend on marketing is helping to overhaul the category’s image and attract the right audience.

*The Brand Champions data is listed to one decimal place for ease of reading, but the percentage changes are based on the full data supplied. All brand data is supplied in millions of nine-­litre cases.

Indian whisky (figures: million 9l case sales)

BRAND OWNER 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 %+/­-
Officer’s Choice Whisky Allied Blenders & Distillers 23.8 28.4 32.9 32.9 32.0 -2.6%
McDowell’s No.1 Whisky United Spirits 24.9 25.8 25.9 26.7 26.6 -0.4%
Imperial Blue Pernod Ricard 10.9 14.1 17.5 18.0 19.0 5.6%
Royal Stag Pernod Ricard 14.8 16.1 17.3 18.0 18.7 3.9%
Original Choice John Distilleries 10.0 10.5 10.7 10.1 10.3 1.8%
Hayward’s Fine United Spirits 8.3 9.6 7.4 8.2 8.9 8.5%
Old Tavern United Spirits 8.7 8.6 9.4 8.8 7.4 -15.9%
8PM Radico Khaitan 4.8 4.3 4.1 5.7 7.0 24.2%
Blenders Pride Pernod Ricard 4.2 4.8 5.6 6.2 6.4 3.2%
Bagpiper United Spirits 9.5 7.9 7.2 7.0 6.0 -14.3%
Royal Challenge United Spirits 1.8 2.5 3.6 4.7 4.5 -4.3%
Director’s Special Whisky United Spirits 4.3 4.4 4.6 4.7 4.2 -10.6%
Bangalore Malt Whisky John Distilleries 0.1 0.8 1.1 2.1 3.5 69.8%
Signature Whisky United Spirits 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.6 1.8 12.5%
White & Blue Alcobrew 0.1 0.4 1.2 1.4 1.6 13.5%

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