The top 10 best-selling Indian whisky brandsBy Amy Hopkins
Indian whisky is not particularly well known outside of its domestic market, but the category sells enormous quantities every year.
Many of the world’s best-selling Indian whisky brands witnessed impressive gains last year, while social and political factors took their toll on others.
Some of the biggest players started to recover from the impact demonestisation and benefited from loosened prohibition measures, at the same time as a blanket ban on alcohol sales within 500 metres of any highway dampened opportunities.
Indeed, India is a complex market for spirits – the country’s 150% import tariff on alcohol is undoubtedly a significant reason why sales of domestic whisky so outweigh foreign brands. Producers must also navigate complicated state legislation, punitive regulation, and a fraught cultural view of alcohol.
But despite the best efforts of international spirits brands to meaningfully penetrate the market, Indian whisky reins supreme – but which are the best-selling brands, and how did they perform in 2017?
Click through to the following pages to discover the largest Indian whisky brands listed in order of their nine-litre case sales.
Data is listed to one decimal place for ease of reading, but the percentage changes are based on the full data supplied to The Brand Champions 2018.
% change: -14.3%
Place last year: 8
Sliding down the top 10 list is Bagpiper, owned by United Spirits – Diageo’s Indian spirits business. In 2017, the brand lost 1m cases and has seen its volumes decline by 3.5m cases since 2013, according to our recent Brand Champions report.
Launched in 1976, Bagpiper has aimed to “create communication that synergises popular culture with Indian cinema”. Its ‘bagpiper sardar’ is widely recognised across the subcontinent.
Following a challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) in 2016, Diageo agreed to cease exports of Bagpiper – but the impact on sales would have been minimal, since only 0.3% of the brand’s total volumes were previously shipped overseas.
9. Blenders Pride
% change: 3.2%
Place last year: 9
Retaining its ninth position is Pernod Ricard’s Blenders Pride brand, which recorded solid growth in 2017 to 6.4m cases. The brand is one of the few top-selling Indian whiskies to witnessed uninterrupted growth over a number of years.
The brand’s volumes have increased by almost 2m cases since 2013, which is indicative of how important Indian whisky has become to Pernod Ricard’s growth strategy for the emerging markets.
% change: 24.2%
Place last year: 10
Radico Khaitan’s 8PM whisky witnessed remarkable growth in 2017, propelling itself from 10th place to eighth in the best-selling list.
But the brand’s trajectory hasn’t always been so certain – according to latest Brand Champions figures, the brand was in steady decline between 2013 and 2015, but made a triumphant return to growth in 2015 with almost 40% volume gains.
8PM has benefited from the release of a 180ml Tetra Pak format, which offered greater convenience for consumers and streamlined logistics.
7. Old Tavern
% change: -15.9%
Place last year: 6
2017 was another challenging year for Old Tavern, owned by United Spirits. The brand continued to slip down the sales leaderboard to reach its lowest volume in a number of years.
6. Hayward’s Fine
% change: 8.5%
Place last year: 7
Inching up the leaderboad is Hayward’s Fine, another brand owned by United Spirits. The brand experienced a more positive performance than some of its portfolio cousins in 2017, when volume sales grew by 8.5% to 8.9m cases.
Hayward’s Fine has had a mixed performance over the last five years, and hasn’t managed to repeat its success of 2014, when case sales hit 9.6m cases. Will the brand manage to creep back over the 9m case threshold in 2018?
5. Original Choice
% change: 1.8%
Place last year: 5
Steady at number five is Original Choice, owned by John Distilleries. The whisky is said to “offer the same rich experience as that of a malt whisky, but at an affordable price”, with its use of American oak casks.
Its volume sales are starting to creep up once more, but Original Choice is yet to hit its 10.7m-case-high, last seen in 2015.
The potential of John Distilleries was evident to US company Sazerac, which acquired an equity stake in the business in October last year. John Distilleries also produces the high-volume Bangalore Malt and the super-premium Paul John single malt brand.
4. Royal Stag
% change: 3.9%
Place last year: 4
Another of Pernod Ricard’s Indian whiskies, Royal Stag held on to its fourth position in 2017, when case sales increased 3.9% to 18.7m. Since 2013, the brand has added almost 4m cases to its sales tally, and its growth has been unhampered for a number of years.
Now, only 300,000 cases separate it from portfolio cousin, Imperial Blue…
3. Imperial Blue
% change: 5.6%
Place last year: 3
On the surface, Imperial Blue’s 5.6% volume increase isn’t monumental, but the fact that the brand has managed to sustain impressive growth over a number of years, and at such high volumes, secured it the title of Indian Whisky Brand Champion 2018.
The biggest whisky brand in Pernod Ricard’s stable, Imperial Blue benefited from “quirky, reliable, yet insightful messaging” as its ‘Men will be Men’ marketing campaign gained “cult status” in India, according to Kartik Mohindra, chief marketing officer at Pernod Ricard India.
The brand is increasingly targeting younger middle class consumers, which has allowed it to “sail through difficult times”.
2. McDowell’s No.1 Whisky
% change: -0.4%
Place last year: 2
Once the world’s best-selling whisky brand, McDowell’s No.1 remains in second place among the world’s largest Indian whisky brands.
Last year, the United Spirits-owned brand witnessed a marginal sales dip to 26.6m cases – its first decline in at least three years. India’s tempestuous market conditions have clearly had an impact at the top of the ladder.
1. Officer’s Choice Whisky
% change: -2.6%
Place last year: 1
The world’s best-selling Indian whisky – and in fact, the world’s best-selling whisky brand across all categories – is Officer’s Choice, produced by Allied Blenders & Distillers. In fact, the brand is almost double the size of behemoth blended Scotch Johnnie Walker.
However, its volumes declined for the first time in a number of years in 2017, losing almost 1m cases.
This is despite a packaging redesign a couple of years ago, aimed squarely at younger consumers. The brand has also sought to “aggressively enhance” the digital footprint of Officer’s Choice Blue Whisky to engage with millennials.
India’s market difficulties may not have been completely mitigated, but, for now, the position of Officer’s Choice at the top of the pack seems untouchable.