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Published on: June 16, 2022, 3:28 p.m.
Bira 91 and its beer bonds
  • Bira 91 is highly focussed on developing colourful and modern packaging that immediately grabs consumer attention

By Suman Tarafdar

Indians are increasingly becoming zythophiles. That’s just beer lovers, a tribe that is making the Indian beer market not just boom, but is also pushing the envelope in both offering new variants and making the narrative more diverse in terms of variants. A recent conjuring of this was seen in the launch of four limited edition craft beers by Bira 91. Launched just about seven years ago, the brand, which would have once firmly been seen as being in the niche segment of the beer market, is rapidly taking significant chunks of the total beer market in India.

“More than seven pints of Bira 91 are enjoyed every second of every day and night, and we foresee doubling of this mark in 2022,” says Ankur Jain, CEO & founder, Bira 91. “The demand for beer is ramping owing to a generational shift as people are exploring new flavours. Bira 91 has seen tremendous growth over the last few years despite Covid-19. In fact, during the pandemic alone, the brand has tripled its market share as compared to pre-Covid levels and risen to be amongst the largest consumer brand (FMCG) to emerge out of India in the last decade. Over the last few years, we have also been able to ramp up our capacity to about 2.4 million cases a month. This is a 6x increase of what was achieved in 2019. Our national market share has exceeded 5 per cent for the first time in 2021-22, 3x of pre-Covid levels and we now have double digital market share across UP, Delhi, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh.” Bira 91, whose monkey face logo is now instantly recognisable, is backed by Sequoia Capital India, Sofina of Belgium and Kirin Holding of Japan.

According to an Expert Market Research (EMR) study, the Indian beer market was worth about Rs37,100 crore in 2020. It predicted a growth to about Rs66.200 croreby 2026, increasing by about 9.2 per cent CAGR during 2022-27. The largest selling Indian beer brand is Kingfisher, while other major domestic brands include (besides Bira 91) Kalyani, Haywards, Kings, Godfather and Zingaro, while global players such as Carlsberg (including Tuborg), Budweiser, Heineken, Corona, Miller, Hoegaarden and Foster’s are also growing the market.

Crafty moves

The craft beer segment in India is finding a steadily growing market in India’s metros, and it is of little surprise that this global trend is most popular among aspirational, well-travelled Indians. And local is the underlying principle for craft beers, to which end Bira 91’s latest offerings are styled as ‘Imagined in India’ – “an attempt to bring together the many flavours of India and its creative energy fuelled by emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and start-ups,” explains Jain.

“Each beer is brewed with unusual ingredients – local and seasonal – which makes them unique and bursting with flavour. Experimental, creative, limited, each of these flavours – Bollywood IPA, Kokum Sour, Brown Ale, and Mango Lassi – is sure to elevate the beer experience of Indian consumers.” This isn’t the brand’s first foray in limited editions though; earlier offerings include Malabar Stout and IPA Brewed with Pomelo.

  • Jain: setting new benchmarks

    Jain: setting new benchmarks

To try a ‘limited’ release is an experiment, at least for the domestic market. “Limited releases help push the envelope on beer and bring experimental products to consumers,” says Jain. “As a rapidly growing brand, there is a strategic imperative to always keep improving, creating and setting new benchmarks. The driving force of our innovation wagon has been gathering imperative consumer feedback from our ‘taproom’ and amalgamating the right flavours and mixtures to create extraordinary beers for consumers. The ‘taproom’ is a place where we host consumers and let them try out new variants of brews. It has 20 beers on tap, the most of any microbrewery or taproom in India. Within just a year of its launch, Bira 91’s limited release taproom has been awarded the People’s Choice Award for the best Micro-brewery/ taproom at 30 ‘Best Bars in India’ awards. The Imagined in India beers that are being brought into the market have been fuelled by the positive response received for them at our Taproom in Koramangla, Bengaluru.”

Bira 91’s latest offerings seem to be created keeping in mind the emerging consumer. “Our core consumers are the new age beer drinkers, who are urban, diverse, open to discovering experimental flavours and enjoying bespoke experiences, occasions, and celebrations,” says Jain. “With consumers becoming more conscious and gravitating towards making more responsible choices, we at Bira 91, are working towards being a responsible consumer-first brand that ensures transparent and real-time communication across varied platforms where our consumers are present.” The limited release beers will retail in metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune.

Design led

In an increasingly visual and crowded market, catching the eyeballs is crucial. While beer labelling has none of the complexity associated with wine, it is also not a space that has generally attracted attention. However, Bira has never shied away from using bold colours and designs, and ‘Imagined in India’ pushes the envelope in this regard too. “The first touchpoint for consumers with a brand is packaging and design,’ points out Jain. “The reason for partnering with different designers for packaging was so to make sure that just like the taste, the design of each beer has a different story to tell.”

“Bira 91 is highly focussed on developing colourful and modern packaging that immediately grabs consumer attention and delivers clutter breaking shelf presence. For Imagined in India, we collaborated with Kulture Co (a curated platform spearheading the new wave of Indian Graphic Art) to onboard artists, who are breaking the mould and taking modern India to new frontiers – to conceptualise and design the packaging of the four new flavours.

The artists have done an amazing job to showcase a vibrant palette of local stories around shared identities painted onto these beer cans and narrating the story of our home country. Each of the artists – Ranganath Krishnamani, Osheen Siva, M. Sajid and Prince Lunawara – successfully brought alive the flavour as well as a part of India’s rich cultural heritage through their intricate artwork.”

  • Each beer is brewed with unusual ingredients – local and seasonal – which makes them unique and bursting with flavour

    Each beer is brewed with unusual ingredients – local and seasonal – which makes them unique and bursting with flavour

THE FOUR VARIANTS

‘Imagined in India’ is a celebration of the many flavours of India and its creative energy fuelled as much by emerging artists as entrepreneurs, according to Ankur Jain. Starting with experiments derived from suggestions from customers at the brand’s taproom in Bengaluru, these four variants represent different aspects of India.

The Bollywood IPA variant is a total blockbuster – loud, flavourful, and vibrant with a tropical twist, inspired by West Coast IPAs that were born in California.

Kokum Sour complements the Indian summer by combining the traditional ingredient from the Konkan Coast and the affinity of the Indian palette towards sour flavours and the best sour beers of the world.

 Brown Ale is a blend of English Nut Brown Ale and the Antwerpian Amber with strong notes of coconut and vanilla.

 Mango Lassi is an experimental summer essential that merges Bira 91’s flagship Wheat Ale and a milkshake beer into one flavourful bomb.

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