India’s growing taste for craft beer presents opportunities for flavour innovation

November 4, 2016
4 min read

Known for a fondness for strong alcohol when choosing alcoholic drinks, Indian consumers also typically identify more with brands than the variety of beer. However, with the advent of micro- breweries in India there is a shift in this mentality. Consumers are starting to explore different beer types and are appreciating flavoured beer, which was previously associated more as a drink just for women.

Bira91 is a brand of beer from B9 Beverages Pvt Ltd described as ‘the country’s first handcrafted beer’ and has been imported to India from Belgium since 2015. Bira91 was launched at leading pubs in Bangalore such as Beer Café, Monkey Bar, Raasta, and Pint Room. Bira91 has two variants: White and Blonde.

Despite no advertising, as per the law of India, the brand has nevertheless gained wide popularity in cities where it is available including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Goa and Kolkata.

Craft beer is currently tiny in India in terms of volume and the strong (i.e. high ABV) beer segment continues to lead the market; however consumers’ openness to trying new things, growing income level, and global exposure combined with their interest in aspirational lifestyles is driving interest in craft beer.

Extra Hoppy Blonde Craft Lager Beer, Bira 91, India

Extra hoppy beer











Micro-breweries offer greater variety through local flavours

Micro-breweries are growing the repertoire available to Indian beer consumers. They offer greater variety and are experimenting with local flavours to cater to the urban consumer’s growing sophistication of palate. The advantage with micro-breweries is these flavours are created in small batches so if it does not work well it can be removed from the market or replaced with a different variant.

Toit, a popular micro-brewery in Bangalore offers flavours such as Mosambi, a wheat beer with sweet lime, a citrus fruit of Indian origin. Other such flavours gaining popularity include lemon grass and a beer infused with betel leaf flavour. Mango has also found success. Such innovation is bringing distinctly local and exotic flavours to India’s previously homogenous beer.

Such innovation is bringing distinctly local and exotic flavours to India’s previously homogenous beer.

Product innovation in India has long been dominated by unflavoured beer and the growing interest in craft beer opens the opportunity for flavoured beer in India. Flavoured beer has the advantages of appealing to a wider consumer base (i.e. younger drinkers and women) so this is a development which has the potential to grow the overall beer market.

The rise of craft beer does not point to a complete shift in consumer’s preferences; however it points to the readiness of consumers when it comes to experimenting with new varieties of beer. Bira91’s approach works well as it allows consumers to sample new varieties and flavours; for example, Bira91 first launched its craft beer at key city pubs in Bangalore and then expanded to pubs in other cities followed by select retail stores, allowing the chance for customer feedback on the product before a wider roll-out. Brands are likely pay close attention to this approach and how consumers respond to innovative products in the on-trade ahead of any retail launch, especially as the use of exotic and innovative flavours can prove divisive among beer drinkers.

Established brands can also look at limited edition flavour launches, which can not only keep younger consumers engaged but also allow the brand to gauge which new varieties work and which do not. Established beer brands can keep consumers wanting more with limited edition flavours and, moreover, new local ingredients and flavours can also be looked at by established manufacturers as they seek to garner inspiration from the smaller breweries in terms of variety and flavour.

Yogmaya joined Mintel in 2016 as a Food & Drinks Analyst for India. She brings over six years of qualitative marketing research experience across different categories helping Global CPG companies on a range of marketing activities including NPD, communication, retail & shopper strategies. Yogmaya holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science & Masters in Marketing, Brand management & International Business.

Yogmaya Chatterjee
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