Pass me a cold one – India’s growing fondness for craft beers

Beer drinkers are either  loyalists to a particular brand or are tickled by the desire to try out various varieties the market has got to offer. It is safe to say that innovators or rather “beer connoisseurs” if that is a thing, decided to leverage the curiosity of the latter. Craft beer in India has gained both makers and drinkers, pushing the industry towards popularity. 

 What exactly sets the craft beer in India apart from their conventional counterparts?

If we had to put the craft beers in a category, it would be a different genre altogether in its own right. The branding, design and overall marketing of these beers are consolidated keeping in mind the crowd which looks out for all shades of funk. The craft beers available in the Indian market when dissected according to design and packaging, it is seen pertaining to contemporary fashion. More often than not, at the very core, the design draws inspiration from aesthetics that are likely to captivate a generation which finds things “Instagram-worthy.” The design saliently paves its way to the standees and other advertising materials which are erected across events, hoardings or anywhere under the public gaze. A concrete aspect of beer’s  identity is its name and logo, effectively shouldering the responsibility of etching the brand in the minds of the viewers. The typography, colors and shapes affiliated with the craft beers are imprinted onto merchandise that is fancied by the customers. In many cases the packaging carries a story which speaks about the craft beer’s brewing methods, origins and raw materials which are distinguishable. 

Influenced indeed…

Credible influencers or public figures have strategically been roped in by several craft beer brands to promote them. This isn’t something new given that older beer brands have had celebrities pose as brand ambassadors, but that  was majorly restricted to commercials. With new age customers being held in the juggernaut of social media, the influencer movement has picked up momentum. The craft beers are effectively showcased as a lifestyle choice or a top pick for parties by several collaborators on their own social media. This considerably brings down the perception that celebrity endorsements are wooden and lack any actual inclination towards the brand at all. Furthering the usage of social media, it can be used to create interactive experiences. Craft beer in India leverages the scope of platforms such as Instagram to host giveaways, contests and reach out to a wider audience.

Craft beer in India has become a juicy aspect of several festivals and events, these opportunities provide the perfect environment to propagate the brand in its quirkiest form. The have established meaningful collaborations with events and regular pubs which expect a younger crowd’s footfall. This offers them a perfect spot to propagate the brand, from mascots to dangling craft pieces that scream the brand’s identity, be it the tagline or merely the logo. This phenomenon is not very common with the traditional beers because the scope to appear kooky isn’t very broad. Painting the walls of bars, pubs or other alcohol retailers is not new to the players in the alcohol industry. But, its the advertising style, the choice of colors and design approach adopted by craft beers which make graffiti and walls potential stops for the likes of photography. This acts as an excellent tool to hype the beer brand and garner attention of the young, targeted crowd. 

Mixed and fixed

India is synonymous with spices, a popular recipe for authenticating something as truly Indian would be by associating it with some masala. This not-so-difficult code has been cracked by almost all the micro breweries housed in the country. Various craft beer brands infuse India’s favorite spices ranging from cardamom to cinnamon and more to give the drink added flavor and some edge. This can easily be perceived as one of the topmost distinguishing factors which sets this “genre” of beers apart from the traditional ones. Indian cuisine is known to be robust, when the elements from it are strategically incorporated into alcoholic beverages, it is bound to elevate the flavor. 

Furthering the appealing ingredients, the addition of exotic or seasonal fruits alongside flavorsome botanicals. Indian craft beer makers devise a range of flavors which capture the essence of the fruits and herbs alike. Some brands endorse the geographical roots of the the ingredients they vouch to have sourced out, associating the botanicals with places as dreamy as the mighty Himalayas. Going along the same lines, Maka Di, a popular craft beer brand based in Goa mentions that the honey used in one of their beer ranges is organically collected from the depths of the lush Jim Corbett National Park. The diverse map of India allows innovators in the business to blend in raw ingredients which possess a sense of earthly value. Spin-offs coming from the conventional beers fostered flavors but carried alcohol in lesser amounts. Moreover, the traditional beers had their varieties only in terms of alcohol strength, having little scope for flavorsome experimentation. Craft beers have managed to improvise on this apparent shortcoming by producing an amalgamation of the two.

Toured..

Many innovators in the fraternity, such as the craft beer brand Simba, offer experiential tours through their breweries. It caters to the curiosity of beer drinkers who are intrigued by the process or just want to have a look. This approach also allows the brands to decorate the brewing space in a manner that resonates with the style and taste of a young at heart crowd. This strategy is at par with the targeted crowd which will make an effort to display the tour on various social media platforms. Experience oriented ideas help in developing a connect with the consumer base which stays beyond the pubs and other retailers. It is bigger advantage to micro breweries given the size and also the elements which make them stand out. The craft beer brands use their different brewing techniques and raw materials which intrigue the consumers. 

The problem angle

Given the niche nature of production, the makers find it challenging to procure the raw materials and sustain the infrastructure of the breweries. The craft beer segment will be seeing enough growth for a potential customer to be spoilt for choice. The wide-ranging variety of craft beer has managed to increase the competition manifold With new entrants every now and then, the onus of innovation on the existing ones keeps piling up. Although it is the need for any product to be equipped to newer challenges, the competitive landscape makes it difficult for the ands to differentiate themselves. The craft beer industry in India has been constrained by complex and often restrictive regulations and licensing requirements, varying from state to state. Obtaining licenses for manufacturing, distribution, and a can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process.

What’s in store?

The beer culture in India has seen exponential growth in the past few decades. In 2022, the beer market in India was valued at around IN 442.4 billion. It is projected that the industry will expand to approximately INR 789.41 billion by 2028, showcasing an anticipated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of roughly 9.2% between 2023 and 2028. This very well accommodates the younger microbreweries which have managed to make their place in the country’s larger beer scene. The pub hopping scene and the newer generation’s openness to try out what’s new is helping the craft beer scene in India take shape. The increase in size and income of the young earning crowd provides a strong base for the growing craft beer culture. The industry is bound to see many more players, consumers and competitors as the bandwagon is moving faster than ever!

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