There is a conscious move towards low alcohol drinks: Kartik Mohindra

Earlier this month, Australian wine brand Jacob’s Creek announced the launch of Unvined, an alcohol-free wine with less than 0.5% alcohol. Pernod Ricard, which markets Jacob’s Creek in India, has a large portfolio of local and international brands such as Royal Stag, Blender’s Pride, Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, The Glenlivet, Jameson Irish whiskey, Absolut vodka and Money 47 gin.

In an interview, Kartik Mohindra, Marketing Director of Pernod Ricard India, spoke about Indian consumers’ growing affinity for better alcohol consumption and the company’s plans to launch several international brands. Edited excerpts:

What prompted you to enter the category of non-alcoholic wines?

The genesis of all of this is that globally there is a conscious consumer movement towards low or no alcohol products. Consumers are rightly concerned about drink-driving. There are times when they don’t want to opt for a product with a high alcohol content, but want to savor something in that area to pass a particular evening. So the trick is to make it look and taste like the real product without the alcohol content and the winemakers at Jacob’s Creek in Australia have done a fabulous job of creating this product, which contains less than 0.5% alcohol. ‘alcohol. It’s a wine without the kick that comes with it. We believe that India represents a huge opportunity for this product category.

Is this one of your first products in the non-alcoholic category?

Yes, this is one of the first. But there will be a bunch of drinks that we’ll probably roll out in the years to come. For example, we are trying to consume not non-alcoholic, but low-alcohol whiskeys and gins as the next wave of offerings from us.

Will your retail focus change for these products?

For us, it’s a unique territory because the typical outlets for these, say, the Jacob’s Creek Unvined, would be department stores and grocery stores. When we talk about the range of non-alcoholic products that we are likely to build over a period of time, the company already has a completely separate team. A whole distribution network is being built right now, including e-commerce capabilities so that these represent the strongest channels for us to drive these particular products. For example, Unvined is available on Amazon; so you can technically get it anywhere in the country.

Pernod Ricard has a very large portfolio. Do you plan to focus on a few premium brands?

Honestly, premiumisation as a business vision and strategy is nothing new for Pernod. This has been a stated ambition and strategic intent on our part since the day we launched here. We have always applied premium pricing to what the industry or segment benchmarks were. But our objective is, of course, to ride this macroeconomic wave that India is going through, where consumers are increasing and premiumizing.

Are you bringing in other brands from the international portfolio?

Yes; over the next few years, we will plan to launch several new brands. Among the portfolio of international brands, we have just launched the roll-out of a super premium rum, which is Havana Club seven years old.

We are also looking to grow in the imported gin category. So gin, especially at the higher end of the pyramid in urban centers, is getting stronger and stronger, albeit at a small base. So we have a fabulous portfolio of brands in the global list, which will be introduced in the coming months – it’s a premium Italian Malfy gin. We will also be launching an ultra premium gin from Japan called Kinobi. We have our work cut out over the next few months to enter new or emerging categories to invest in the future.

What are the new consumer trends? The recent National Family Health Survey found that younger consumers are drinking less.

I think one of the trends we can talk about for these guys is that they believe in drinking more quality than quantity. And that’s what’s driving the premiumization trend. There’s also a lot of awareness that overrides the desire to stay in control. So these things are great. But what young consumers are also moving towards is a lot more experimentation. Unlike their predecessors, they don’t stick to just one category. They have a repertoire of categories that they indulge in on occasion; so the same guys would be just as comfortable enjoying a whiskey or gravitating towards gin or vodka or even wine depending on how they feel.

Mixology is on the rise. That’s largely due to lockdowns, where smaller house parties have allowed people to get into DIY cocktail parties.

These are very interesting trends that young consumers are bringing to the table. It is up to marketers to be consumer-centric and stay relevant to these trends.

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