Q] After 11 years, Anheuser-Busch InBev is entering the whiskey segment for the first time, can you explain the strategy as to why India was chosen as the first country to launch Magnum Double Barrel?
There are two to three reasons why we went into this direction. We are the world’s biggest beer manufacturer, and being a very consumer-centric company, we realized that today’s millennial population or this fast-growing Gen Z population who are above the legal drinking age are experimenting. We have seen that these individuals try out new products, flavours and brands. Secondly, the Indian market is the second biggest spirits market in the world. India contributes to around 10% of the global spirits consumption. The third reason is that when we launched Magnum in 2011, it was an extension to the Budweiser brand. Now we are extending brand Magnum into the whiskey category. But it is important to say that we are committed to beer and we want to lead and grow the category. But we also want to diversify our portfolio into categories beyond beer. India is now amongst the top 5 markets for Budweiser globally.
Q] Who is your Target Group, and where does Magnum Double Barrel fit in the whiskey category?
Magnum Double Barrel fits into the premium blended whiskey segment as a brand. Budweiser is the leader in the premium beer segment, and we want to extend that brand love that we have in the segment to not just beer, but also to the whiskey. This premium blended segment whiskey is filled with a lot of other brands, such as 100 pipers, Black & White, Red Label, Jameson, and Balentines. These brands are premium in this segment, of course, India’s whiskey market is filled with a lot of value segment brands.
Q] Today when consumers are looking forward to ready-to-drink liquor products, will AB InBev move towards that segment as well?
Actually we did a soft launch of one of our key offerings in Maharashtra. We learnt a lot of things there as well. Ready-to-drink is a very close category to beer. Category true to us as well, lower Alcohol By Volume (ABV) which is similar to set of consumers. So, there is a lot more overlap between the beer and the RTD segment. So, the answer is yes. We are closely looking at not just Indian brands, but also global brands. RTD category is an exciting one. It is something that we are closely watching as well, and when we have a strong viewpoint on this, we will obviously go big on this segment.
Q] Has your association with FIFA World Cup yielded positive results for the brand?
We have been partners of the FIFA World Cup for over 35 years now, and Budweiser is the brand that is a partner. We celebrate high energy occasions as a brand, and the partnership with the FIFA World Cup has been amazing for us. What we see with FIFA, it is a sport and an event, and a celebration of the biggest football festival in the world. It is where people come together, they enjoy and create moments which are truly unforgettable.
People were huddled up in homes due to the pandemic, and for the last two years we were reflecting on what should be done when the world opens up, and the FIFA World Cup is a great carnival for that. The time zone is quite conducive for India, as the matches were being played in the evening. It is a great time for our products to be consumed. So we leveraged this not only in the minds of the consumer, but also at the outlets, bars, pubs, and wherever people watch football. The beer of their choice should always be Budweiser.
Q] The Indian government had set fresh guidelines on surrogate advertising. Has that become an obstacle for a liquor brand like yours to advertise and reach out to the masses?
I think, we as a global entity have always adhered to the local applicable laws, and we ensure all our businesses operate within those guidelines. For us, the law of the land is supreme. Not only the law of the land, but also our internal, there’s a marketing code that we follow to ensure a lot of responsible marketing. We are still working with authorities to understand how we can market the right way.
But as a world’s leading brewer, we are committed to respect the laws of the land and to reduce the harmful consumption of alcohol. We are very focused on building smart drinking and positive consumption of our products. It is not very different from how we operate it internally as well. We don’t want to do anything that we are not proud of, and we respect the laws of the government. We will ensure that we work in that domain to create the right proposition and to create the right products, and to advertise the way the laws of the land states. We were already operating with much stricter codes within our internal AB InBev teams, and it doesn’t change a lot for us because we were already on the right side of the law.