Alcohol industry, business: India

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IMFL: A history

Jabir , Imperial pints “India Today” 5/6/2017

The British empire may have forced us to pay for our own oppression but it had its compensations. So as the sun flares over another Indian summer, let's raise our chilled glasses to the imperialists who begat Indian beer. The pioneer, apparently, was one Henry Bohle who set up businesses in Meerut and Mussourie in 1825. The latter thrived for some years in the hands of the Mackinnon family, seeding a ferment of hill station breweries that stretched from Murree to Shimla, Kasauli and Ranikhet and on to Darjeeling. Edward Dyer, in particular, bought up or established a chain of breweries in the Himalayas and is credited with launching Asia's first beer brand, 'Lion', which was produced in both Murree and Kasauli. Dyer would sire (and later disown) the notorious Reginald Dyer of Jallianwala Bagh-but that's another story. By the 1880s, another experienced brewer, H.G. Meakin, had set up an extensive empire, buying some of Dyer's factories as well as establishing new ones as far afield as Dalhousie, Kirkee and Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. The two firms would ultimately merge as Dyer and Meakin in the 1930s.

By 1889, the 25-odd breweries in British India were producing some 5,165,138 gallons a year, (roughly a thousand times less than passes through our national gullets today). And judging by some of the vintage beer labels (yes, it's a thing) treasured by collectors today, there was a lot more variety back then. The Dyer Meakin breweries, for example, offered a range of light and dark ales, a stout, and several 'sparkling beers'. Today, the concern known as Mohan Meakin is sustained by the popularity of its house rum, while johnny-come-lately United Breweries (estd. 1857) dominates India's beer market with bland lagers and knuckleheaded strong beers. Did the British take all the tasty beer with them when they left? Well, the glass may be half empty but look at it this way: they gave us beer, we gave them Vijay Mallya.


In 2018

India’s Alcohol Exports, presumably as in 2018
From: Oct 10, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

India’s Alcohol Exports, presumably as in 2018

Malpractices of the industry

Cartelisation: 2021

Sep 25, 2021: The Times of India

Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed penalties totalling over Rs 873 crore on United Breweries (UB), Carlsberg India, All India Brewers’ Association (AIBA) and 11 individuals for cartelisation in the sale and supply of beer.

In its 231-page order, which comes nearly four years after ordering a detailed probe, CCI has also directed the companies, association and individuals to “cease and desist” from anti-competitive practices in the future.

The final order has been passed against UB, SABMiller India, now renamed as Anheuser Busch InBev India (AB InBev), and Carlsberg India, among other entities. The regulator did not impose any fine on Ab InBev, while lesser penalties have been slapped on others. UBL and Carlsberg India, which are major players in the beer market, said they were reviewing the order.

An official release said the companies and other entities have been found to be “indulging in cartelisation in the sale and supply of beer in various states and UTs in India, including through the platform of AIBA”. As AIBA was found to be actively involved in facilitating such cartelisation, CCI has also held it to be contravening the competition law. The fines on UBL and Carlsberg India are nearly Rs 752 crore and Rs 121 crore, respectively. A fine of over Rs 6.2 lakh has been imposed on AIBA and various individuals have also been fined by the regulator.

As per the release, October 10, 2018, was the date on which the director general (DG) conducted search and seizure operations at the premises of the beer companies. Based on evidences of regular communications between the parties collected by the DG during search and seizure, and disclosures made in the lesser penalty applications, CCI found that the three companies engaged in price coordination, which is in violation of competition norms, the release said. PTI


2016> 19

Avik Das, January 25, 2020: The Times of India

Alcohol sales in India, 2016> 19
From: Avik Das, January 25, 2020: The Times of India

BENGALURU: Volume growth in India’s spirits industry was just 3% last year, compared to 10% in the year before, impacted negatively by the national elections and sagging consumer demand.

Data sourced from the industry show that domestic brands — or Indianmade foreign liquor (IMFL), which make up the bulk of the sales — reported a volume of 368 million cases (of 9 litres each) for the calendar year, up marginally from 358 million cases in 2018.

Whiskey, brandy and rum, the top three segments, grew at 2.6%, 2.5% and 2.4% respectively. December provided some impetus to the sales as people consumed more due to the winter. “Like all other sectors, the economic slowdown has impacted this as well,” said Allied Blenders Distillers (ABD) executive vice-chairman and CEO Deepak Roy.

India remains a whiskey drinking country and consumers prefer drinks made here because of relatively low price tags. Companies, however, are slowly selling more premium drinks aided by a new class of drinkers with more disposable income. Imported spirits account for 2% of the overall consumption.

Drinks makers warned early last year that the national elections in May would impact sales due to an increase in number of dry days and customs officials opting for election duties. The brakes on growth come on the heels of a relatively good 2018.

The year before that was disastrous — pummeled by demonetisation and the ban on sale of liquor around highways ordered by the Supreme Court. “India is a volatile environment. We used to say it’s two steps forward and one step back,” Carlsberg CEO Cees ‘t Hart said in November.

“In addition to the difficult economic environment, the cost of extra neutral alcohol (ENA) has shot up by almost 60% in the last 18 months, leading to under supply in the popular and lower segments,” he added. ENA is the primary raw material for alcoholic beverages.

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