NPR : News

Filed Under:

That's The Spirit: Why Indians Prefer Strong Beer, Liquor

Sometimes we at Parallels see a story that's so compelling, we make an extra effort to chase down the facts. So it's in that spirit, this story from Reuters caught our attention:

"Strong beer, with alcohol content of 5-8 percent, accounted for 83 percent of all beer sold in India last year, according to research firm Mintel, a figure industry players say is the biggest strong beer share of any major market. Brewers expect that to grow to 90 percent over the next three to five years."

Alcohol consumption isn't high in India, mainly for religious and cultural reasons. Only a third of the country's 1.1 billion people drink regularly. And when people do drink, Samar Singh Shekhawat, senior vice president of marketing at United Breweries, told Reuters, it's to get buzzed.

That explains why strong beer outsells its low-alcohol counterpart; it also helps explain why spirits — like whiskey — are still the drink of choice in India, as this chart shows.

Of course, India isn't the only country where the consumption of spirits outpaces that of beer.

Russian vodka, French wine and rum in Caribbean nations outstrip the consumption of beer in those places.

Alcohol consumption in India remains low — but it's growing fast. That makes it an attractive destination for Western brewers and distillers.

Diageo, which makes Johnnie Walker, has a $2 billion stake in United Breweries, the world's largest liquor company by volume. As The Wall Street Journal noted in November 2012:

"Sales of such local whiskeys — which are dominated by United Spirits — doubled India's whiskey consumption to 1.2 billion liters between 2005 and 2010, making India the world's largest whiskey market by volume. Meanwhile, the market for imported liquors such as Diageo's Johnnie Walker has remained tiny because of India's high alcohol import taxes."

India's locally made whiskies dominate global whiskey sales, though few people have heard of them outside the country. For example, United Spirits' McDowell's No. 1 lives up to its name; it's the world's top-selling whiskey.

But India isn't the only country where local drinks dominate the market — and the world.

As NPR's Tom Dreisbach reported on weekends on All Things Considered, the the best-selling spirit in the world is one you probably haven't heard of: It's South Korea's Jinro soju, a rice-based drink that's about 20 percent alcohol.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Never Crossing The Botox Rubicon': Amanda Peet Explores Aging In Hollywood

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with actress Amanda Peet about her Lenny Letter essay, "Never Crossing The Botox Rubicon," and how to navigate aging in the image-obsessed entertainment industry.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

Donald Trump Delivers Keynote At California GOP Convention

Donald Trump gave the keynote address Friday afternoon at the California Republican convention. He's trying to lock-up the party's presidential nomination, and California could put him over the top.
NPR

Apple's Lousy Week Could Signal Times Of Trouble For Tech Giant

Apple got hit with a lot of bad news this week. First, the company posted its first quarterly revenue drop since 2003. And then billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn revealed that he has dumped all of his shares in Apple. NPR explores whether the company is really in trouble or if is this all just a bump in the road.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.