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Indian Whisky Brand Champion 2022: Sterling Reserve

Sterling Reserve
Sterling Reserve has once again been crowned Indian Whisky Brand Champion 2022

India’s strict Covid-19 rules caused major declines for local whisky makers in 2020, but many brands began to recover last year.

For the fourth year in a row, the Indian Whisky Brand Champion 2022 title was given to Sterling Reserve, which achieved the biggest growth among the million-case sellers.

In 2021, Sterling Reserve grew by 28.6% to reach 3.6m cases, an impressive feat for a brand that is only four years old.

Bikram Basu, vice-president of marketing, strategy and business development for Allied Blenders & Distillers, notes how the premiumisation trend helped to boost sales. “The price segments where Sterling Reserve participates are driving maximum growth. This is driven by consumers, especially young adults, premiumising across consumer categories or entering this segment directly,” Basu says.

“It is at the cusp of delivering volume on a large and fast-growing base, and at relatively good margins. A great product, smart packaging, distinct advertising with efficient and effective execution of go-to-market plans have helped Sterling Reserve grow.”

The company singled out Indian markets Maharashtra, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana as areas that performed well for the whisky last year.

The brand is planning to expand in key markets across India, including Mumbai, and globally.

Basu continues: “There are geographies in India, and thereafter internationally, where we still haven’t launched the brand. If the numbers over the last few years are any indication, then launches in new markets, which we are pursuing now, should help with the brand’s growth and success in the years to come, other than organic growth in existing markets.”

The brand is also planning a new campaign that will reposition it. Basu adds: “There are plans to launch exciting product innovations, pack formats and limited editions to keep the brand active and visible.”

Looking across the other million-case-selling Indian whisky brands, many of them recorded double-digit growth last year after a pandemic-affected 2020.

The only brands to decline were United Spirits’ Director’s Special Whisky and Old Tavern, which dropped by 5.5% and 3.3% respectively. Several brands managed to exceed their 2019 volumes following double-digit growth, including Royal Stag, 8PM, Hayward’s, and Blenders Pride.

There have been several developments in India that could affect local producers in the coming year. Last year, the Maharashtra government slashed excise duty on Scotch from 300% to 150%.

The UK and India are currently discussing a free trade agreement that could axe the 150% import tax on spirits, allowing international brands to compete with the dominant Indian whisky sector in the country.

Figures: million 9l-case sales
Brand Owner 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 %+/-
McDowell’s No.1 Whisky United Spirits 26.4 29.0 30.7 25.7 30.1 17.2%
Imperial Blue Pernod Ricard 19.0 22.7 26.3 21.3 24.1 13.4%
Officer’s Choice Allied Blenders & Distillers 32.0 34.0 30.6 20.8 23.2 11.5%
Royal Stag Pernod Ricard 18.7 21.6 22.0 18.5 22.4 20.8%
Hayward’s United Spirits 8.5 9.4 9.6 9.7 12.0 24.2%
8PM Radico Khaitan 7.1 8.0 9.2 9.4 11.4 21.2%
Blenders Pride Pernod Ricard 6.4 7.3 7.7 6.6 8.0 20.8%
Bagpiper United Spirits 5.8 5.6 6.1 5.3 5.6 6.0%
Royal Challenge United Spirits 4.5 5.6 5.5 4.3 4.7 8.8%
Old Tavern United Spirits 7.1 6.2 5.3 4.5 4.4 -3.3%
Sterling Reserve Allied Blenders & Distillers N/A 1.2 2.8 2.8 3.6 28.6%
Director’s Special Whisky United Spirits 4.1 4.2 4.2 3.1 2.9 -5.5%
White & Blue Alcobrew 1.6 2.1 2.4 2.0 2.4 19.0%
Signature United Spirits 2.0 2.3 2.3 1.9 2.0 6.5%

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