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Tuesday, Aug 30, 2005

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Is `pint' adding fizz to the beer industry?

Anjali Prayag

Statistics also show that the `small' idea has been very popular in Karnataka and Mumbai with 36.2 per cent and 13.1 per cent of the sales, respectively coming from the 330-ml packs.

Bangalore , Aug. 29

CAN the `pint' do to the country's beer industry what the sachet did to the FMCGs? According to statistics available from the UB Group and SABMiller India, two of the country's domestic majors in the brewing industry, the market share of the 330-ml pack has now attained the double-digit figure.

For UB Group, which accounts for over 40 per cent of the total domestic beer sales, the share of pint by volume stands at around 12 per cent in 2004-05 compared to two per cent in 2000-01. "The smaller packs have been getting a larger share consistently," says Mr Shekhar Ramamurthy, Executive Vice-President, Sales and Marketing with UB's breweries division.

For SABMiller, the country's second largest domestic brewer, the market grew significantly in 2004-05. From about 2.9 per cent in 2002-03 it now stands at 9.1 per cent (July 2005).

Statistics also show that the `small' idea has been very popular in Karnataka and Mumbai with 36.2 per cent and 13.1 per cent of the sales, respectively coming from the 330-ml packs. But States such as Delhi, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh still largely prefer the 650-ml to the 330-ml pack.

The Indian beer drinking style could be one of the reasons for this. Mr U.B. Bhat, Director, UBB Management Consultants, a Bangalore-based consultant, says beer is considered a sharing drink in India, unlike in the West where it's more an individual drink. Therefore preference for the 650-ml is relatively higher here.

Like the FMCGs' sachet that had recruitment sales as its raison d'etre, the pints too priced between Rs 21 and Rs 24 per bottle, were launched to bring in more consumers (particularly women) into the beer-drinking fold of the country. But whether it has served the purpose is anybody's guess.

To which says Mr Bhat, "There's no doubt that the pint has given volumes, but in my opinion, women and first-timers generally like to camouflage their drink with fruit juices or soft drinks for social reasons. And beer may not be ideal for that."

Mr Richard Rushton, Managing Director, SABMiller India, is optimistic that the idea will catch on and that the market is on an expansion mode.

"India tends to be led by affordability-based concepts and we want to follow that trend," he told Business Line.

Globally too, the pint sales seldom exceed 20 per cent of the market share, according to him.

Incidentally, beer consumption in India remains at around one litre per person per year, while in comparable developing markets it stands at around 20 litres.

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