The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which took over the responsibility of setting food standards in the country last August, has now set up an expert group that is drawing up benchmarks for alcoholic beverages.
A FSSAI official told FoodNavigator-Asia.com that the group is made up of scientists, industry experts, and beverage manufacture representatives.
“The group was initiated at the end of last month. They have begun working on a draft of standards that should be ready by the end of March. But I am not sure of that deadline,” he said.
“As I understand, they would cover all alcoholic beverages allowed to be sold in the country under the current licensing regulations. They will obviously not cover local beverages made and sold in select regions off the market,” he added.
The experts are trying to meet the 1 July deadline for implementation of the final standards, added the spokesperson. This is also the target for the completion of the final standards for health drinks, on which another committee has been tasked with.
Standards maybe expansive and detailed
The official said the standards “would definitely define the maximum alcohol content allowed in majorly consumed beverages such as wine, beer, whisky, and rum.”
An industry official, working with a multinational beer manufacturer whose representatives have made submissions to the group, told this publication that the standards would be expansive in nature.
“To my knowledge, for beer, they are looking to define everything from the grain that we use, to the amount of water that we may use, to how much alcohol we may use in our beer products,” he said, requesting anonymity.
Current alcohol content standards in India allow 45.5% maximum content in distilled spirits such as whisky, rum, and gin, 12% for wine, and 8% for beer products while there are no standards for locally made beverages.
A booming market
According to the Associated Chambers Of Commerce and Industry Of India (ASSOCHAM), India’s alcohol consumption is set to grow by 30% annually to 2015 growing to 19,000m litres by 2015 from the current level of 6,700m litres.
India's alcoholic beverage market, comprising beer, wine and spirits, would reach over US$28.3bn in 2015 from the current size of about US$10.3bn, according to ASSOCHAM.
The Indian liquor market is divided into various categories - IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor), imported liquor, domestic liquor, and country-made liquor - of which IMFL is one the fasted growing segments
India is also the largest consumer of whiskey, which accounts for almost 80% of the entire liquor market, worth about US$8.2bn right now, and possibly growing to US10.9bn by 2015, according to ASSOCHAM.
“Urbanisation, together with changing social norms, increased alcohol availability, high intensity marketing and relaxation of overseas trade rules have equally contributed to increased alcohol consumption,” an ASSOCHAM study said.