NEW DELHI: After years of build-up to the launch, India's largest brewer United Breweries Ltd (UBL) has ventured into the latest go-to drink - craft beer - market with the launch of Kingfisher Ultra Witbier.
The move is set to put the Kingfisher maker in direct competition to at least half a dozen players such as Bira 91, Simba and White Rhino that have challenged its dominance in the niche and fast-growing segment and get into microbrewery territory.
“Today, consumers expect more from their beers - in terms of flavour, taste and experience. Our first non-lager offering in the speciality beer segment is a rich blend of all-natural extracts of orange and coriander, spices sourced from Belgium and new world aromatic hops sourced from the USA. The product will initially be brewed at our Karnataka facility,” Debabrata Mukherjee, chief marketing officer, United Breweries told Express.
Available in three SKUs (stock-keeping units) -- a 330ml bottle, a 500ml can and a 650ml bottle priced at Rs 110, Rs 150 and Rs 185, respectively, is now available in Karnataka and Goa. UB will subsequently sell the brand in Maharashtra, Delhi and Haryana as well.
Heineken-controlled UB and Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), which sells the crowd-pleaser Budweiser, together control three-fourths of the country’s beer market.
AB InBev has also launched two styles of speciality beers -- Machaa and Veere -- through 7 Rivers Brewing Co last month that are available over 300 on-premise outlets in Mumbai and Pune.
The new products are brewed at its Aurangabad brewery with ingredients procured from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. A 330-ml can is priced at Rs 140.
India is predominantly a market for strong beer accounting for 85 per cent of the overall market, but other varieties including craft and wheat beer are catching on.
About 200 craft breweries have mushroomed in India, from only two over the past decade, which make a variety of speciality handcrafted beers in small batches with premium ingredients like barley, wheat, rice, fruits and herbs, often directly sourced from farmers or cottage industry suppliers.
Analysts say UBL’s latest offering will help fill the gap in its portfolio, but it has to steadily ramp up its promotion and ad spends to market its product.
“Die-hard fans of Bira will be tough to win back, so from here, it will be a war in terms of ad spends and dealer margins targeting for all craft beer,” said Abneesh Roy, executive vice president, research, Edelweiss.