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HomeBusinessImpact of COVID-19 on drinking habits- Amar Sinha, COO Radico Khaitan

Impact of COVID-19 on drinking habits- Amar Sinha, COO Radico Khaitan

An increased focus on awareness campaigns is required, and we carried out numerous camps to educate people, says AMAR SINHA

India is one of the world’s fastest-growing alcobev and spirits markets. Various factors have contributed to the growth, including a large middle-class population with increasing spending power, growing urbanisation, changing preferences towards quality products, and the subsequent waning cultural taboos.

However, the COVID-19 lockdown, which began in late March 2020, had a significant toll in all areas, and the alcobev and spirit industry was no exception. Some states tried to adjust to the shifting dynamics of the distribution system, and the approach turned out to be relatively fruitful. A few states began home delivery to reduce crowds and facilitate social distance during the lockdown. However, consumption started picking up pace after lockdowns were eased, and people thronged outlets to embrace the packs of tinge of joy.

Due to shutdowns, bars and eateries got negatively impacted, leading to the most significant and visible behavioural change, with people resorting to drinking in closed groups in the comforts of their homes. After unlocks and opening of bars/restaurants, the sales started picking up pace; however, the behavioural change of the drinkers persisted. In fact, some studies have hinted at an increase in intake.

An element of many people’s social lives, the industry noticed an intriguing shift in consumer behaviour, as they were eager to experiment with their tipple while at home. It’s fascinating to watch how they experiment with beverages they may not have had previously, such as artisan whiskey, craft rum, and craft gin. The change in preference towards premium is also an alteration from the health aspect, as consumers became conscious about quality and did not bat an eyelid before shelling out extra to savor the premium tastes.

Impact of social media and OTT also cannot be negated as it is bringing in the exposure to international trends, which kicks in the mentality of aping behaviour of mature markets. The recent research reports point toward the psychological behaviour of the internet generation as they want to portray themselves on social media platforms as the acceptors of experimental consumption.

Another pattern that emerged after the pandemic is the increased inclination to go premium. The shift occurred because people saved money by not going to bars/restaurants; people could afford to go a notch up in liquor selection with the same amount. Consumers are looking to create an experience out of their drinking time and are hunting for quality. In the future, there will be more private gatherings and more opportunities to experiment with DIYs, which usually leads to fascinating consumer behaviour adjustments.

Looking at the increased consumption, we took the opportunity to step in as a responsible corporate body to promote a judicious drinking habit that should not affect personal lives. An increased focus on awareness campaigns is required, and we carried out numerous camps to educate people.

The pandemic has necessitated the focus on health aspects, and that is where the people’s increased inclination towards quality has to be weighed in. The alcobev industry is catching up fast to reach pre-COVID sales and is also aware of the responsibilities at the same time. We need to take these forward to create a society that can always raise a toast to happiness.

The writer is Amar Sinha Chief Operating Officer, at Radico Khaitan Limited

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