The pandemic has changed some consumer behaviours and what and how Indians drink is one of them. Thomas Mayr, marketing and channel marketing director, Asia at the Campari Group says the Indian consumer is on a premiumisation journey. “They are looking for social currency, premium drinks, personalization and the brag value that comes with all of it,” Mayr says. In an interview with Storyboard18 Mayr talks about how the brand is bullish about growth in India, product diversification, post pandemic marketing strategies, trends and more.
When you say Campari Group is doubling investments in India – what are the areas that you are looking at? How important is India as a market in your global portfolio?
We've been in the Indian market for some time and India has now become even more important for us. The market is premiumising fast and we see massive opportunities here in India. So we're doubling down on our investments in terms of people and in terms of the brands that are being offered to the consumer here.
If we talk of our portfolio here, we’ve moved from eight brands last year to 17 brands. In the past two years our team too has more than doubled. That apart, we're now covering 28 states in India, the key states being Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa and West Bengal.
So, we're basically doubling our team, more than doubling our portfolio and our marketing investments in India.
How many new brands are you bringing to India and what is the kind of diversification that you are introducing to your portfolio here?
We are looking at five to six new brand launches across categories here in India this year. Globally we have over 50 brands in our portfolio and we are introducing a lot of them in the Indian market this year.
Going ahead some of the categories will be our key focus areas. One of these categories will be brown spirits beyond single malt and scotch. Rum for instance is growing north of 60 percent in India and globally too rum has seen a renaissance. So we have Appleton launching in India.
Then there is Cognac that has seen a renaissance in India and is growing at 400 percent when compared to last year. We have a disruptive brand in the category called Bisquit & Dubouché which we're launching now in India.
Then there is bourbon. We recently bought Kentucky-based Wilderness Trail Distillery and we expect this to fuel our growth in the category.
Now most bourbons don't have an age statement but we know the consumer in Asia and in India cares a lot about the age statement because it conveys quality and premiumness of the product. So we are keeping that in mind. But, the beauty about the new consumers we're seeing in the market is that they have an explorer mindset. They are very open to learning more about other brown spirits.
Globally we have over 50 brands in our portfolio and we are introducing a lot of them in the Indian market.
Then there is the Glen Grant range in 10, 12 and 18 that has been very well received by the Indian market and soon we’d launch the 21-year-old offering in India.
Overall we are proud of the brown spirits offering that we have because it has something for every consumer in their premiumization journey.
Moving on from brown spirits. It is interesting how vodka as a category is growing in India. It is mostly a stagnant category in many markets but in India it is growing. So we have the relaunch of Skyy Vodka in India. The brand is not new but the packaging and the look and feel is completely renovated.
We just launched our popular fusion liqueur ‘X-Rated’ in the Indian market in the last quarter of 2022. We are also launching Espolòn in India.
A lot changed for brands across categories during the pandemic. What are your observations? What are the changes that you introduced in marketing your offerings in India in this phase?
Pandemic in a way was a time of discovery. With access to information a lot of people experimented at home in terms of cocktail making. So in spite of the phase being extremely challenging from a personal standpoint for all of us we saw a lot of change and growth in the business.
So we developed the amplification of the off-premise strategy. We have a lot of offerings with a mixology focus so we put together cocktail packs. Offerings like the Aperol Spritz were an instant hit.
The consumers of fine spirits are getting younger. Appreciation of the finer things starts younger because of the internet democratizing access to information and the fact that wealth is created very quickly these days.
That's how we actually tried to reach out to the consumer, in the less polished markets, through the off premise retail stores where they can literally pick up the bag, scan the QR code, and you'll have a demo of how to build your Aperol Spritz with the glass and markings of how much you need to pour where.
We worked on our distribution strategy too. Earlier, we were working just with one distributor till 2019 but we soon realized we have to gain a stronger foothold beyond Tier I cities so we signed separate distributors for separate markets.
But now that we're finally out of the pandemic, what we're experiencing is revenge conviviality and we are happy to bring our on premise activities back.
Help us understand some of your marketing strategies for the market.
We believe brands are built on-premises. That's where as a consumer, you have the perfect experience of a brand. We're finally back post COVID and there's a huge pent up demand. We want to make sure that the consumer in India experiences the brand in the best way.
We're working a lot in terms of bringing the brand to life, brand experience to life in a very immersive way.
One such example is what we are doing for Aperol. We are creating brand theaters across some of the key outlets with permanent displays for Aperol.
We recently did the Wonderfruit Festival in Thailand where we invited key opinion leaders from all across Asia. Now in India, we're doing similar work with local KOLs in Goa, to create content together. We’d do these activities in other markets too. These activities are less transactional and more of a partnership. We are a lifestyle brand and our offerings are very much linked to traveling, food and photography. So we're attracting a lot of influencers that are working in that area.
Then there was the Negroni Week and India was the top five markets for Negroni week with approximately 500 outlets participating from across India. That was really meaningful for us because it's for a charitable cause. We're raising funds to give back to charity. So basically you're having a Negroni for a cause.
Tell us about the top trends in the liquor space in the India market.
The first one would be premiumization. I think the Indian consumer loves to experience the finer things in life. They're longing to have more premium experience with better drinks and spirits. So this is a very good time for us because we have a premium portfolio. We are bringing RARE to India. The RARE division was launched globally only in mid-2021.
People in this market are also looking for social currency and programmes. The other noticeable trend is how women are breaking some age old stereotypes.
The Indian consumers are becoming more discerning in terms of the brands they want to experience so we are taking care of that need be it in terms of the higher age statements or personalization. For example, for Glen Grant for the first time in the brand's history, we have a Glen Grant Private Cask Program for a few select countries in Asia Pacific, including India. So with our expert help we help you choose the best liquid from the RARE collection and we also offer personalization in the packaging. It’s a wonderful experience that money can buy.
People in this market are also looking for social currency and programmes like these are designed for them.
The other noticeable trend is how women are breaking some age old stereotypes. If we take the example of our premium whisky tasting event Whisky Live ten years ago versus now you know we’d see ten years ago you’d have middle aged men fill the room but today today 30-40 percent of the attendees are women
Lastly, the consumers of fine spirits are getting younger and younger. Appreciation of the finer things has no age and it starts younger and younger because of the internet democratizing access to information and the fact that wealth is created very quickly these days.