India’s diverse cultural landscape sees residents in the suburbs and lower-tier cities favouring local drinks like Toddy, while those in larger cities lead towards Whiskey.
With over 65% of India’s population below the age of 35, a demographic wielding increasing spending power in personal care and entertainment. The younger generation, characterised by a preference for convenience, seeks streamlined experiences.
Whether purchasing drinks at a neighbourhood liquor store or during the COVID-19 pandemic when home consumption surged, the demand for hassle-free enjoyment persisted. This is the market gap that Salud Beverages wants to tap into.
“Our goal is always to create something new. No one in India has ever thought of making gin & tonic in a bottle, so we did. In a market saturated with coloured ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, we focus on making clear spirits with natural flavours,” shared Ajay Shetty, Founder and CEO of Salud Beverages, with FoodNavigator Asia.
“As more individuals enter the workforce, we want our brand as the go-to choice for first-time drinkers. That’s why we made our own merchandise, music production, and even ventured into the world of NFTs. We are not just building a brand, but a community that is continuously reaching out to people from all walks of life.”
Navigating the regulatory space
Currently, Salud Beverages has four gin & tonic options, including original, cucumber, watermelon, and lavender, each priced at Rs 130 (USD$1.56) for a 330 milli-litre bottle.
In October, the brand expanded its portfolio with two new products: the tequila or agave-based Salud Fiesta and the cranberry gin refresher, Strong Cranberry, both available at Rs 135 (USD$1.62).
Salud Viking, an upcoming mead based RTD featuring local honey, is set to debut during the Christmas and new year period. While the base gin, tequila, and other hard liquor are sourced from a spirit manufacturer in the UK, Salud Beverages’ RTDs are all mixed and bottled at a leased facility in Goa, on the western coast of India.
“Our RTD are still considered 100% local made because all components were sourced and processes within India. We are gradually moving from a gin-based company to a multi-spirit RTD brand, so we hope that over the next two years, we can start making our own base spirits too.”
As e-commerce sales of alcoholic drinks are prohibited in many Indian states, Salud Beverages’ primarily channels its sales through retail stores, hotels, restaurants, and bars.
“Our initial target was to register our products in 12 Indian states but because of the different policy and regulations, we will probably only hit about eight or nine states by the end of our financial year in March 2024.”
“This is one of the biggest challenges we face. In India, we can’t openly advertise alcohol beverages and each state has its own rules and administrative processes. So, it’s not possible to establish a nationwide presence at once. It needs to be done over time.”
Emerging RTD trends
Without giving too many details, Salud Beverages plans to launch more products in 2024. It has also sent out its RTDs to several Middle Eastern markets. In addition, negotiations are underway with distributors in key Southeast Asian territories, including Thailand, Singapore, and The Philippines, as well as China and Hong Kong.
“These markets represent our primary focus. In recent years, we have observed a growing interest in tequila and mezcal in Asia, as this continues, we will also witness a definite shift towards the rum space.”
“As we continue to experiment with new flavours, major industry players are also making strides in the RTD sector. Our competitive edge lies in our multipronged approach, functionality, and pricing. Nevertheless, the landscape of alcoholic RTDs hold promising prospects, not only within India but across the broader Asian market.”