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Pernod South Asia MD: ‘bright future for gin’ in India

The managing director and CEO of Pernod Ricard South Asia has singled out gin as having a ‘bright future’ in India, with several innovations planned.

Pernod owns Monkey 47 gin
India is one of the biggest markets in the world for Monkey 47 gin

Pernod Ricard is working on “several innovations in gin” according to Thibault Cuny, managing director and CEO of South Asia for Pernod Ricard, who notes the potential for gin in the Indian market as a result of premiumisation and mixology.

“We want to bring the full portfolio to consumers, but we also believe there is a great opportunity to have our own Indian gin,” he explained.

Cuny also noted that Monkey 47 gin is “doing extremely well in India” – one of the few largest markets for the brand in the world.

India is one of Pernod Ricard’s ‘must-win’ markets, with the company reporting ‘strong growth’ of 19% in the market in the first nine months of its 2022 fiscal year.

The company attributed the market’s success to the ‘very dynamic performance’ of Indian whiskies Royal Stag and Blenders Pride, and ‘outstanding growth’ for Jameson Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky Ballantine’s and Absolut vodka.

Cuny said the Indian market had become more sophisticated, with premium brands doing well. He singled out Scotch brand Chivas Regal as having a “strong position in the market”, as well as Ballantine’s, Jameson and the leading single malt in India – Glenlivet.

“Absolut is a big brand; soon India will be one of the largest countries in the world for this brand,” he added.

India-UK trade deal

The UK and India began discussions for a free trade agreement (FTA) in January this year, with the fourth round of negotiations due to be hosted by the UK next month. It is hoped that a deal will be reached by the end of 2022.

The move could lead to the lifting of a whopping 150% tariff on Scotch whisky in India, a key market for the category. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the UK-India FTA is the “biggest thing to unlock potential in Scotch” and could boost the sector’s exports to the country by £1 billion (US$1.2bn) over five years.

Cuny said the move is a “positive direction in taxes to allow premiumisation” in the market, with consumers gaining greater access to premium alternatives.

“It will further open up the market, where we have a leading position,” he added. “Since our inception, our role has been to premiumise our market.”

Pernod Ricard operates 32 manufacturing units in India, Cuny said. The company owns Imperial Blue, the world’s second-biggest Indian whisky brand.

Last year, the company released Oaken Glow whisky, a blend bottled in India that is made of aged malt Scotch whiskies. “The smoky taste was totally new for India, it’s still in deployment mode with more states to comes,” he added.

Regarding further innovations in the market, Cuny said the aim is to “explore the possibility of Indian specifics”.

E-commerce ‘extremely restricted’

India remains far behind other nations when it comes to selling alcohol online due to the market’s complex tax structure and questions over how it would be regulated. Some states temporarily allowed home delivery of alcohol and a click-and-collect service amid the pandemic.

Cuny said that the company “strongly welcomes home delivery and e-commerce”. He highlighted several positives, including providing convenience to consumers, less counterfeiting, and more revenue for the states.

He added: “It is a challenge for our industry because it is extremely restricted for spirits; there’s no way in the long term we can stay away from e-commerce. We cannot have e-commerce for everything but exclude wine and spirits.”

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