Boby Kurian

Bangalore, March 30

SEAGRAM, part of the French drinks giant Groupe Pernod Ricard, has identified five core brands to build its spirits business in one of the world's fastest expanding markets.

The company, the only transnational entity to make the cut in the mainstream domestic liquor market, will rely on its local whiskies Royal Stag, Imperial Blue and Blenders Pride, and lifestyle brands such as Chivas Regal and 100 Pipers scotch whiskies to scale up operations in the country.

Seagram's annual depletions have touched six million cases, with Royal Stag and Imperial Blue continuing to post double-digit growth rates. Royal Stag's annualised sales during the last calendar year have crossed three-million cases, while Imperial Blue is entering the two-million cases league. Blenders Pride, in the premium priced whisky segment, has reported sales of 3.25 lakh cases making it the second largest brand after the iconic Royal Challenge Whisky in the category.

"We have identified five core brands to push business in the country,'' Mr Bikram Basu, General Manager, Marketing, told Business Line. The company's operations and the five core brands have been split between Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and lifestyle businesses. Chivas Regal, a premium imported brand, and 100 Pipers, a locally bottled standard offering, which are part of the lifestyle portfolio, hopes to drive sales on the back of expanding scotch whisky consumption.

Seagram is expected to emerge as a key player in the Indian spirits industry as consolidation gathers steam. Analysts said this company, which has stayed focused on organic growth since its entry into the domestic market in the early 90s, could look at good acquisitions as consolidation is expected to move faster after market leader UB Group gulped down its main rival Shaw Wallace & Co in a Rs 1,300-crore deal recently, which gives it between 50-55 per cent share of the IMFL sales in the country.

Mr Basu, who looks after the IMFL business, said some of the company's more recent introductions such as Amigoz Rum and Three Kings Brandy would be treated as tactical or filler brands in future. Fling Vodka, another brand that rolled into the market recently, could undergo further fine-tuning in its brand personality.

He said the immediate target of the IMFL business is to push the sales of Royal Stag and Blenders Pride to over 3.5-million and 4-lakh cases, respectively in the next 18 months.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 31, 2005)
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