Tipplers in India love their spirits and are yet to warm up to beer, the chilled beverage that the rest of the world prefers.
Around 93% of liquor consumed in India is in the spirits category (up to 42.8% alcoholic content), while the consumption of beer (alcoholic content up to 9%) stood at only 7% leaving wine consumption with a statistically negligible figure of 0.1%, according to a survey by All India Brewers Association (AIBA).
Interestingly, the alcohol consumption pattern in developed countries is the other way round with beer and wine scoring higher than the spirits, reveals an AIBA white paper on the beer industry .
Industry experts believe low consumption of hard liquor to be a sign of better public health.
However, one of the reasons for low beer consumption is attributed to high taxation. Higher VAT, service tax es and excise duty leads to beer being priced as much as IMFL or at priced as much as IMFL or at times even more prompting people to go for spirits which give them stronger ‘kick’ than beer or wine.
Industry experts said in terms of number of cases (bottles totaling 9 liters of beer and not the pure alcoholic content in them) sold, the beer market looked competitive vis-a-vis spirits and country liquor, but this according to them must not be looked as the correct indicator from the perspective of social implication on public health.
Estimates from the NSSO survey show that at the national level, per capita per week consumption of toddy and country liquor was almost twice (1.9 times) the consumption of beer, foreign liquor and wine combined together.
“For Rs 100, a consumer can buy 180 ml of local whiskey, which works out to about Rs 1.3 per ml of alcohol. The same amount will buy a 650 ml bottle of strong beer, but because of the lower alcohol levels, consumers pay over twice as much per ml. Therefore, beer taxation is indiscriminate and does not depict value to the consumer forcing people to opt for hard liquor,” AIBA paper said.
“Beer if taxed rationally , positioned more liberally , viewed more positively will wean people away from hard liquor. This will therefore do immense good to society at large if beer is delinked from hard liquor in terms of perception, taxation, availability and distribution,” the paper added.
It is observed that an average Indian liquor consumer pays five to six times the manufacturing cost, making liquor prices in India significantly higher than 95 per cent of the countries in the world and more so in case of beer.