India. United Breweries’ Sheikhawat Says Beer Is ‘Socially Acceptable’

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Samar Singh Sheikhawat, vice president of marketing at United Breweries Ltd. (UBBL), comments on the growth of the mild beer market in India. Sheikhawat spoke in a phone interview from New Delhi.

United Breweries, the maker of Kingfisher, India’s largest beer brand, introduced Heineken in the world’s second-most populous nation on Aug. 9.

“Eighty percent of the market is strong beer and the balance is the mild beer market. That market has now started growing in the last 1 1/2 to 2 years after being flat for about 3 years. At the top end of this market a significant crust is forming — the super-premium, mild beer market — which today consists of Kingfisher Ultra, Carlsberg, imported beers and now Heineken. If you put all that together, this year it will be about two million to three million cases.

‘‘I would estimate that the rate of growth of this market is about 30 percent to 40 percent year-on-year. While it’s a small market in absolute size, the rate of growth is high.

‘‘There’s a large youth population that is obviously the target for beer. It is getting socially acceptable to drink, especially beer.

‘‘When we were going to launch Kingfisher Ultra two years ago, we used to wonder who would buy a 100-rupee ($2.2) beer. But today, Kingfisher or the mainstream beers are close to 90 or 95 rupees. What was considered a barrier for beer doesn’t exist anymore. People are willing to pay for quality.’’