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Pernod Ricard mulls pushing single malts in India to quench whisky thirst

The French drinks giant, which owns Scotch whisky company Chivas Brothers, is looking to tap into growing demand for higher-tier whisky in India by introducing more SKUs into the market.

Pernod Ricard mulls pushing single malts in India to quench whisky thirst

Chivas Brothers is the world’s second-biggest producer of Scotch after Diageo, and the company’s portfolio includes namesake blend Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and The Glenlivet.

Parent company Pernod is mulling adding some of its smaller single malt labels to an existing portfolio in India, which already includes The Glenlivet.

“We have a number of single malts in Scotland, but not all of them are present for the time being in India,” Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Chivas’ chairman and chief executive officer, said in an interview, according to Bloomberg. “We are looking at everything.”

The company’s Secret Speyside single malts are one example of labels not yet sold in India. However, according to Bloomberg, Gourgues declined to share details on brands which could be introduced in the country.

The market has by no means been plain sailing for Pernod Ricard. India, which is the company’s second largest market after the US, is becoming increasingly troublesome for the French group.

The latest allegation is that India’s competition watchdog is investigating Pernod Ricard for allegedly colluding with retailers in the southern state of Telangana to effectively freeze out competitors.

India lost its title as Scotch’s largest export market by volume in the first half of 2023 to France, after claiming the top spot last year. Despite double-digit growth, Scotch whisky still only comprised 2% of the Indian whisky market in 2022.

In H1 2023, India remains a high-volume export market for Scotch whisky, with the equivalent of 72m bottles exported.

The SWA continues to push for a UK-India free trade agreement which could ease the 150% tariff burden on Scotch whisky, and see the value of Scotch exports to this vital market grow to more than £1bn within five years.

Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) data for H1 2023 shows that the volume of Scotch whisky exports dropped by a fifth (20%) to the equivalent of 630m 70cl bottles.

However, in the same period, value fell by 3.6% compared with last year’s record figures, equal to £2.57bn for the first half of the year, meaning whiskies on the more premium end are holding strong.

Pernod’s push in India — which accounts for 10% of its group sales — is part of a strategy to get Asian drinkers to spend more on premium spirits.

In other news, employees at Chivas Brothers could be set to strike over a pay dispute. Read more here.

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