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Earlier this month, I attended and presented at India’s first trade show on craft beverage production, Craft Drinks India 2018 in Bengaluru. The conference aimed to showcase cutting-edge alcoholic beverage production technologies as well as to discuss market trends and challenges with a focus to understand evolving consumer behaviours, opportunities of growth and innovation for existing and upcoming brands. Here is the summary of the key topics that were recurring throughout the event.

The Rising Experience Economy 

Leading craft drink manufacturers in India discussed paring the right food with craft drinks to enhance the experience of consumers. This trend is in line with Euromonitor’s understanding of consumer trends for craft drinks in India and within global markets such as USA, UK and Asia.

The leading brewpub and microbrewery owners in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Gurugram discussed exploring consumers’ senses through local food pairings with specific or seasoned brews and highlighted the importance of trained staff to ensure quality of service. Other speakers also pointed out the importance of local and international food offerings at brewpubs, as the food quality is an influencing factor for consumers to decide on repeated visits to the brewpubs.

A panel of craft drink manufacturers also shared how the consumer experience is being sold through large spaces in the experience-driven economy where maintaining the premium aspect of the brand is a requisite. In Bengaluru the sitting and serving area for leading brewpubs is spreading over 50,000 square feet, far more than the minimal criteria of 10,000 square feet. This is largely due to the growth in spending on leisure from the corporate culture in IT capital of India.

The Essentials: Brewers and Raw Materials

The expertise in craft brewing and distilling techniques is slowly increasing in India. The speakers emphasized the importance of finding an expert brewer who understands and maintains the product uniqueness through developing the mix of local and international palates. A large number of local ingredients are being used in craft drinks nowadays to increase the association with product origin, heritage and tradition. Major brewpubs in India are increasingly sourcing local ingredients, however, as per the manufacturers, some basic brew ingredients such as hops or yeast with expected quality are currently not available in India for large-scale productions.

Distribution of Craft

Due to state-regulations the micro-breweries and brewpubs in India primarily sell only on the premises and they require a separate bar license for sale in different states.  An exception is a Maharashtra state, which allows kegging of beer for the distribution of craft beer in popular restaurants and bars. Regulatory limitations, as well as barrelling and ageing, produce challenges for spreading the scale of a craft beer while the experts also ponder the commercialization of craft drinks will defeat the purpose of maintaining the taste’s premium quality.

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