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Published on: July 10, 2023, 11:47 a.m.
No Label brews ‘the nectar of the Gods’
  • Gupta and Malhotra: There is immense scope for growth

By Suman Tarafdar

Want to try the ‘nectar of the gods’? The one transmitted by bees? One that is possibly the ancestor of all alcoholic beverages? Once widely prevalent, mead is making a global resurgence, and unsurprisingly, Indian entrepreneurs have staked their claim as well.

Anant Gupta and Vinayak Malhotra are co-founders of Delhi-based No Label, which they describe as ‘craft alcoholic beverage made from both traditional and non-traditional ingredients’.

In a market that has been dominated by dark spirits and beer, we are defying the norms to create something led by flavour with No Label, says Gupta. As for what led them to mead, he says, “Vinayak and I entered the alco-bev industry because of our love for the space coupled with a lot of introspection during the first lockdown. When we started exploring possible ways to enter the industry, mead came by as a great option due to the lower costs of entry, combined with its versatility.” They point out that, after the Covid-19, consumers have become slightly more liberal in spending on leisure and lifestyle, at the same time being consciously driven towards better healthcare.

The journey

For Gupta and Malhotra, the initial journey had its challenges. “Our journey started with a 2,500 km drive from Delhi to Nashik and back during the first (Covid) lockdown, to scout for wineries and understand the production landscape of the country. We then moved on to produce our first batch in my room (which did not taste good at all). After about six months of in-house recipe development, experiments with 30+ honey types, 60+ recipe combinations and 100+ trial batches, we started our commercial production in July 2021 and launched in November 2021.”

The founders say developing the recipe for No Label Original Mead was a long learning curve. “It took us a while to understand how fermentation works,” they say. “While coming up with the recipe for No Label Original, the goal was to create a light and refreshing drink that would work well as a counter to the soaring heat. A carbonated mead is light on the palate as well as on the body, which makes for an easy drinking experience. The focus was to create a citrus-flavoured drink suitable for summers.” The production process of mead is very similar to wine, with the exception of the crushing and pressing process.

Youth TG

The global mead market is projected to grow from $487.9 million in 2021 to $1,621.0 million in 2028 at a CAGR of 18.71 per cent (Fortune Business Insights), with Europe leading in both production and consumption. The category’s appearance in India is just a few years old, with India’s first branded mead Moonshine Meadery starting only in 2018. Some other leading players in the industry are Cerana, Portside, Arka and Stump, among others.

To stand out within the category, No Label offers a light and crisp drink with an uncomplicated flavour profile for the younger audience, the millennials and GenZ, chorus the founders. “Younger consumers joining the drinking age group are experimental and are moving away from bitter tasting alcohol to drinks that are more flavourful and easier to drink,” says Malhotra. “Mead offers the new age drinkers a smooth transition from carbonated non-alcoholic drinks to alcoholic ones and hence shall become the choice of drink for the age group.”

  • No Label offers a light and crisp drink with an uncomplicated flavour profile for the younger audience

    No Label offers a light and crisp drink with an uncomplicated flavour profile for the younger audience

The founders also see potential for growth. “There is immense scope of growth for the category in coming years,” points out Malhotra. “The changing consumer trends favour categories like mead. Younger consumers joining the drinking age group are experimental and are moving away from bitter tasting alcohol to drinks that are more flavourful and easier to drink. Mead offers the new age drinkers a smooth transition from carbonated non-alcoholic drinks to alcoholic ones and hence shall become the choice of drink for the age group.”

“After carefully analysing the market, we realised that the sense of ownership and belongingness which homegrown brands offer,” they say. “The industry is growing rapidly, with over 100 million consumers joining the legal drinking age. Our focus is to target this set of consumers by focusing on changing consumer behaviour and building a flavour first portfolio with a brand that speaks to their ideology and preferences. We aim to create an easy drinking experience for the consumers and make their transition from non-alcoholic drink to alcoholic ones much smoother.”

Future beckons

Gupta admits that the main challenge is that the category is unknown. “We ensure that we do this at our targeted touch-points with our consumer, online and on ground both. Consumer awareness about the product becomes key when introducing a new category. We use digital platforms to bring about this awareness about what mead is and the origin of the category as well. Since our target audience is young, we leverage the brand identity to attract and engage with the consumers as a starting point, we then focus on telling our story about how and why we introduced a new category like mead.” 

No Label is presently registered in Delhi and Haryana and available across 350+ outlets. “We have a distribution first approach,” says Gupta. “We have covered 80 per cent of our targeted retail outlets within the areas we are present. We are introducing a diverse flavour portfolio in the coming quarters, adding the Passion Fruit Mead to the portfolio along with No Label Original Mead. As part of our next fiscal year strategy we are focused on strengthening our presence in our current cities and expanding to Maharashtra.” Are you ready to imbibe a new label, possibly in a new category?

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Why no label

The brand No Label came from our belief that we must accept and appreciate fellow humans for who they are and not see each other through a lens of labels placed by the society, on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, race, personality traits, and body types, stress the founders. “We believe labels are for bottles, not people.” With its holding company called Bored Beverages, self-described as ‘an alt-alcohol company’, the name should not be that much of a surprise! 

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Mead: Drink of the ancients

Mead aka ‘golden elixir’ is the first known alcoholic beverage consumed by humans, with experts estimating it was consumed about 3,000 years before wine, predating even agriculture or ceramic pottery. Given that it can be produced in nature, by flooding a bee’s nest, estimates even put its antiquity as far back as the palaeolithic age, though conclusive evidence is hard to find.

The increasing use of fermentation in food processing has yielded archaeological evidence of mead. It is possibly a product that had its genesis in different parts of the world. It is speculated that the beverage mentioned in Rig Veda – soma – was possibly mead. Multiple historic references to it have been found – from ancient African hunter gatherers to Norse legends and Chinese potsherds, and Greco-Roman civilisations.

Today, mead is often referred to as ‘honey wine’ as the process of making mead and wine are fairly similar, the main difference being the use of honey instead of grapes as a source of sugar.

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