Indian Alcohol Market To Hit To $64 Billion, Experts Weigh In

India has always had a complicated relationship with alcohol and with international brands being trusted over indigenous liquors. But in a new report by the International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI), it’s clear that no matter how conservative the public tastes were in the past, the exploration market is only growing. In the report titled, “Economic Value of the Indian Alcoholic Beverage Industry”, it’s predicted that the market size, which is already at a staggering $52 billion is slated to touch $64 billion by 2030, positioning India as the fifth largest global contributor to the alco-bev market. 

For anyone in the industry – or for that matter, anyone who likes to try new drinks – this statistic doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Over the last decade, we’ve seen an influx of international brands, homegrown spirits, microbreweries, and alcohol-centric festivals creep into the public sphere. “We have witnessed significant growth in various sectors of the Alcobev industry in India,” says Kunal Patel, Managing Director of Monika Alcobev. “Notably, premium and craft spirits, such as gin and whisky, have experienced a surge in popularity, driven by evolving consumer preferences for high-quality and unique products."

The Meeting Of East And West

India used to be a country of whisky, beer and rum drinkers, but it seems like there’s a gradual shift in the general approach to drinking underway which skews towards more interest in the craft and health-conscious space. “Craft beer has been experiencing significant growth, with consumers showing a preference for unique, locally brewed beers,” says Mr Atul Kumar Singh, Managing Director of Onkara Beverages & Hospitality, “Additionally, other RTDs like hard seltzer and ciders are also seeing good growth albeit on a very very low denominator.”

While this cumulative growth does put India higher in the global market, the contributing factors come in most part from within the existing space. As per the ISWAI report, it’s estimated that 79 lakh individuals are employed within the alcohol space, both directly and indirectly accounting for 1.5 per cent of the country’s manpower. This is just touching upon the potential of the homegrown liquor space. “With global brands having a presence in India before the rise of quality Indian craft spirits. This has led to a coexistence between local and global brands.  For example, in 2017 when we entered the scene, there were only global spirit brands, but over time, local players joined the industry, especially in the Indian craft gin segment, contributing to the overall growth of the sector,” says  Mr Anand Virmani, Co-founder and Distiller of Nao Spirits. And it’s this coexistence of cultures that has steadily been bringing out the best in both sectors. “Global brands entering the Indian market have intensified competition within the industry. Indian consumers now have a broader range of options to choose from, including both domestic and international brands,” adds Mr Atul Kumar Singh. 

Return To Local Flavours

This shift towards more exploratory drinking where consumers are willing to steer away from familiar international brand names and take chances on homegrown labels is making all the difference when it comes to celebrating India’s history with alcohol. “India has a rich tradition of indigenous alcoholic beverages, including various types of spirits and fermented drinks. These unique products have the potential to appeal to international consumers,” says Mr Atul Kumar Singh. 

Playing with indigenous flavours and ingredients has made Indian spirits stand out on a global platform where drinks are often homogenised. “ For instance, we're currently at the Bangkok Bar Show where bigger brands are also present, but we're always able to highlight what makes our products special, whether through our stories like the use of Himalayan Juniper berries in Hapusa or by showcasing our limited edition gins,” says Mr Anand Virmani. “To succeed in both the local and international spaces, we focus on differentiation through creativity and a commitment to quality.”

From these new findings, it’s clear that the Indian alco-bev industry is ready to continue making leaps into a future that’s more experimental and exploratory. One that will place homegrown brands, flavours and ingredients at the forefront and carve out a unique identity for Indian alcohol on a global scale.