India’s largest beer maker United Breweries Ltd (UBL) is entering the non-alcoholic beverages segment with the launch of its lemon-based drink brand Kingfisher Radler. With this, the company hopes to be able to extend the Kingfisher brand beyond beer and into geographies that were otherwise inaccessible.
The company plans to test market its new non-alcoholic drink in Gujarat. Kingfisher has not had a presence in the state, which has a long history of prohibition. Radler will also give UBL access to a fast-growing soft drinks market.
India’s soft drinks market—juices, carbonated drinks, concentrated drinks and energy drinks—was
an over Rs 50,000 crore business in 2017, according to data from research firm Euromonitor International. The carbonated drinks market alone grew at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9% during 2012-17 in value terms, the research firm added. In comparison, concentrates grew at 10.1%, juice grew at 17.5% and sports and energy drinks grew at 13.2%.
Although it is not an apples-to-apples comparison, those growth rates are much higher than the beer market, which grew at a 3% CAGR over 2013-17 according to data from the International Wine and Spirits Research.
Radler is a natural drink that is a blend of lemon juice and imported barley malts and is being launched in three flavours—lemon, ginger lime and mint lime. According to UBL, it contains 30% less sugar than carbonated soft drinks. It will be launched in 300 ml cans and glass bottles and priced at ? 45.
The brand will be test-marketed in parts of Gujarat and Karnataka first before it is taken pan-India.
“The actual market size (and opportunity) of the soft beverages market is much, much larger than the beer market. And there is a bit of fatigue today with existing packaged soft drinks. Consumers are looking for refreshments that are not too sugary and yet taste good,” said Shekhar Ramamurthy, managing director of UBL.
Globally, several big beer companies have over time entered the non-alcoholic segment, either with no-alcohol versions of their own beers or by entering the soft drinks space among other alcohol-free beverages. This trend is a result of an increase in awareness around a moderation in alcohol consumption and healthier lifestyle choices.
UBL’s Dutch parent, Heineken NV, also has a presence in the segment with its Heineken 0.0 alcohol-free lager. Last year, the world’s largest beer company Anheuser Busch InBev (AB InBev) acquired Hiball, which made energy drinks, organic sparkling juices and sparkling water.
“Radler is going to target everybody who doesn’t drink beer. And even among those who do, there are a lot of occasions that are non-alcoholic, like during the daytime,” UBL’s Ramamurthy said, reiterating that it gave the firm access to a much larger consumer pool.