Does the whisky industry need to woo a new generation of drinkers?
March 15th, 2022, Bhawna Singh

Does the whisky industry need to woo a new generation of drinkers?

YouGov’s latest series takes a deep dive into the drinking habits and preferences of urban Indian consumers

The liquor market in the Indian subcontinent has witnessed a change in the recent past with the emergence of affordable premium labels and the evolving drinking preferences of people, especially the younger generation.

A Drinks Market Analysis undertaken in 2020 by the London-based International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR), suggests that India is the largest consumer of whisky in the world, about three times higher than the US, which is the second-largest consumer. Although India is believed to be a top whisky market, YouGov’s latest survey reveals only 16% of urban Indians call it their favourite drink, despite nearly half having tried it.

Beer and wine seem to be more popular with more than half (56% and 55% respectively) saying they have tried it and roughly a quarter (24% and 22%) calling it their favourite alcoholic beverage.

Whisky sees a preference among males, especially GenX respondents while beer finds favouritism with younger adults (GenZ & millennials). Although wine consumption in India is low, females in India seem to be driving its growth in the market.

Among those who consider whisky a favourite, a large majority (86%) claim to be occasional drinkers, either drinking on special occasions (birthday, etc), socially or only on weekends. In comparison to this, regular drinkers of whisky (who drink anytime, daily or most evenings in the week) are far fewer (22%).

The most popular occasions to have whisky are- at a formal conference or office party while relaxing at home and at a house party or in a club with friends. With several home-grown brands making premium whisky affordable, and with increasing acceptance of alcoholic beverages in social circles, whisky is now popular in various social settings across age groups.

When it comes to loyalty, 31% of whisky lovers say they have a favourite brand and like to stick to it. The majority (56%) however are open to trying other options despite having a favourite brand. 13% have no preference and are open to everything.

Stickiness to their favourite brand is higher among beer and wine lovers as compared to whiskey favourers. This presents a great opportunity for new players to enter or experiment with new variants as the willingness to seek new experiences is more among this set of alcohol consumers.

It is interesting to note here that GenX are way more likely than GenZ drinkers (74% vs 33%) to say they are open to trying new brand options, while the latter are more likely to stick to their favourite brand (48% vs 10%). This indicates that instead of chasing cross-drinkers, brands may benefit from engaging with this loyal cohort of drinkers that can guarantee long-term benefit.

Among whisky lovers who consider themselves brand loyalists (have a favourite and like to stick to it), a better sensorial experience may encourage them to try a new brand (35%). This is followed by branding and competitive price (28% and 22%, respectively).

Better sensorial experience is the biggest motivation among switchers as well (those who are either open to new options or have no preference), much more than other options.

Calorie information is also concerning to whisky lovers as three in five (60%) said it is extremely or somewhat important for them to know the calorie content in alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, roughly one in ten brand loyalists and switchers (11% and 8%) said they would try a new brand if it had a lower calorie content, an insight brands may want to focus on given the increased emphasis on health and fitness following the pandemic.

Commenting on this, Deepa Bhatia, General Manager, YouGov India, said, “We see consumers more willing to switch brands and have lower loyalty to a favourite brand possibly due to pandemic related constraints which not only reduced social opportunities to drink outside of home but also the easy availability of preferred brands. With consumers seeking newer experiences, it is imperative to understand the changing perceptions around drinks instead of relying on old wisdom. As our data suggests, in order to win in the long term, whisky brands need to woo and win over the newer generation of whisky drinkers, taking a deeper look into their preferences and motivations.”

**This article is part of a series on understanding the changing alcohol preferences of urban Indian consumers. The data was collected online among 1058 respondents in India by YouGov’s Omnibus between February 8th – 11th, 2022 using YouGov’s panel of over 15 million people worldwide.