India gets high on Chinese Baijiu

Isha Arora
alcohol, drink

Those bored of repeated servings of Martini, Cosmopolitan and Gin & Tonic have a reason to say cheers as the world’s largest-selling clear-as-water spirit, Baijiu, is now available in the Indian market. Prompted by India’s burgeoning bar scene and quest among bartenders for a versatile, easy-to-mix white spirit, Mumbai-based liquor distribution company VBev introduced baijiu-made from fermented sorghum-in association with premium Chinese Baijiu brand Jiangxiaobai (JXB) recently.

"The international white spirits category in India has shown a robust double digit growth during the last few years and the cocktail culture is also growing well. This provides a great platform to introduce a new white spirits brand in India," says Sumedh S Mandla, chief executive officer of Vbev, on the rationale behind the launch. While there are several variants of the spirit available globally, Vbev has launched just one called JXB Pure with 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), keeping the tastes and preferences of Indians in mind. The variant's light and smooth flavour with notes of citrus and green apple make it the perfect spirit to be used in cocktails."Education on the category will play a key role and we aim to keep the momentum going with manifold experiences," says Mandla. Zoe Fu, director of international business center for Jiangxiaobai, hoping that India's evolving cocktail culture would serve as a catalyst to keep the demand rising. "The cocktail culture in India is evolving rapidly so is the knowledge and awareness of the bartenders. We want to build the category of Baijiu here and our wish for our brand JXB to be the torch bearer," Fu notes. Eight-year-old Baijiu brand JXB is present in 24 markets globally, with India being its latest addition. The JXB Pure variant was first launched in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Going ahead, all key markets, including Chennai, Goa, Pune, and Hyderabad, will be targeted as part of an organic distribution network that VBev seeks to develop, says Mandla. Distribution in premium high-energy bars and fine-dining Chinese restaurants is also on the cards, he adds. "The versatility of JXB Baijiu allows it be enjoyed neat as well as with cocktails. Our brand is youthful but it caters to the entire age group of eligible spirits drinkers.

We are certain that the youthful flavours and freshness of our Baijiu will be popular among all age groups in India," says Fu. Hyderabad-based market research company IndustryARC has estimated the global Baijiu market size at $100 billion in 2018. Over the next six years, the Baijiu market is expected to grow at compounded annual growth rate of 6.9%, a 2019 IndustryARC report noted.This is not the first time that an Asian spirit has disrupted the Indian alcobev marketspace. Oriental spirits have fast been gaining traction among whisky-loving Indians on the back of increasing disposable income and heightened exposure to international brands. South Korean distiller HiteJinro (Jinro) has previously tasted success with the launch of its clear, neutral spirit Soju here a few years ago. Besides, there are many Japanese whisky and gin variants available in the market. Recently, beverage maker Suntory Holdings also launched an India-specific whisky, Oaksmith, using Scotch Malt whiskies and American Bourbons to suit the Indian palate.