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Top Ten Importers 2014-15: Pernod Pips Brindco to the Post

Posted: Wednesday, 30 September 2015 13:42


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Top Ten Importers 2014-15: Pernod Pips Brindco to the Post

Sep 30: Pernod Ricard has overtaken Brindco as the Top Ten importers of India for 2013-14, thanks to the continued growth of Jacobs Creek wines and Brindco’s strategy to focus on value, despite the former’s wines stuck for months awaiting clearance from the food safety watchdog FSSAI which allegedly resulted in sales reduction by about 10-15% when they had expected to increase by 15-20%, resulting in a drop of 25% of the targets, writes Subhash Arora, based on research and observation throughout the fiscal year 2014-15

Click For Large ViewAs a company policy, Pernod Ricard does not divulge its sales figures in India, but according to the estimates collated by delWine, the sales went up to 65,000 cases- still a drop of around 10,000 cases from the expected sales due to the paucity of stocks because of blocking of wines in the warehouse by FSSAI since last October. The situation would have been worse if they had not moved some of their products from areas of comfortable inventory to areas where the product was in short supply. Essentially, they did not have fresh stocks available reportedly since October 2014.

Brindco on the other hand, saw a drop of 25% volume to 60,000 cases. Acknowledging the drop in sales, Brindco sources conceded that they were relegated to second position in volume but clarified that in terms of value they were much ahead because most of their wines were superior and fetched higher price than the Jacobs Creek varietals that constituted most of the imports by Pernod Ricard. Other notable wines imported by them are Mumm’s Champagne and Brancott Estate. Their plans to upgrade the customers’ palates to the higher quality Jacobs Creek Reserve and introducing new labels had to be postponed due to FSSAI constriction. Several containers of wine were rejected and blocked by the food watchdog and only a legal case against it in the High Court helped them resolve the issue last month. Sources claim they lost the sale of around 10,000 cases due to FSSAI.

Most other importers claimed a drop in sales because they felt that the FSSAI had been irrational and arbitrary in delaying or rejecting the shipments, making many suspend imports pending clarifications. In fact, due to the unclear policy, many importers had to return shipments, the extra cost and loss of reputation notwithstanding. Details were reported in the last year’s delWine also - FSSAI-Scourge of the Year

The other big sufferers have been Aspri and Hema in this category-both suffering a drop ostensibly due to the FSSAI. In fact, Hema had an Australian biggie and a Valpolicella producer drop him as a distributor despite what he feels was a very good performance by them because they regretted changing their labeling due to costs involved. Farhad Bhaba, Managing Director of Berkmann India, who maintains the 7th position, sums up the general view of importers as he says, ‘the year 2014-15 could be best described as challenging, stressful yet rewarding primarily due to the FSSAI compliances, delays in suppliers approval and acceptance of the changed norms and yet rewarding due to strengthening of the Rupee v/s the Euro. We were lucky to have been well stocked on 31st March 2014 that helped us tide over the uncertainty prevailing over imports till 31st July 2014.’

Here is a list of Top Ten importers in 2014-15. It must be stressed however, that the figures are estimates in that we have relied on information beyond the official data which is scarce and can be confusing to the naked eye-and expensive to get. Many importers like Moet Hennessey and Pernod Ricard and even some small importers of no consequence are tight lipped about their figures. It has been compiled by repeated questioning, surveys, individual interviews, hotels, restaurants, cross-checking with competitors and the goodwill developed by delWine for our neutrality over the years. For the legally inclined like FSSAI, they are being published on ‘Without Prejudice’ basis.

Pernod Ricard
Berkmann India
Hema Connoisseur
Mohan Bros
Wine Park
Global Tax Free
Sales by TOP TEN
Sales increaseof Top Ten  in 2013-14 over 2012-13 19.5%
Sales Decrease of Top Ten in 2014-15 over 2013-14  9%
Total Estimated Consumption  (9-liter cases)

The pecking order has more or less remained the same, besides Pernod Ricard reaching the Top. Sula goes up two notches to no. 6 while Hema falls a step. Sales by the Top Ten have traditionally varied between 65-75% in the past. This year is assumed to be no different.

The total sales by the Top Ten have come down by 9% to 255,000 from the previous year which had seen a jump of 19.5% over the previous year. Based on the estimate of 70% sales by the Top Ten, the total market may be estimated to have been between 340,000-360,000 cases-closer to the lower figure, according to a majority of the importers. The figures include the estimates on hand carried bottles, purchase through duty free shops on arrival but not what is imported by the diplomats directly. Pernod Ricard has initial internal targets of 75,000. Though they did not achieve these targets, Jacobs Creek is the biggest import of India today- the Brand is miles ahead of other brands as the top brand that has singlehandedly brought Australian imports to the no. 1 position as imports into India, perhaps followed by France and Italy as the ‘Brands’. Moet Hennessey is infamously known to encourage re-export of champagnes and the figures are never disclosed. Based on several interviews with outsiders, we have scaled down their consumption figure but this has not affected their ranking.

The performance by smaller importers (around 5000 cases) has been a mixed bag. Ace Beveragez, Agnetta, Elan etc. have maintained growth on a small base. Global Tax Free, Opera, Ixora  and Amfora  etc. are hanging in there whereas at least two importers brought the shutters down and many newer, smaller ones faded away without being noticed. The net result seems to have been 30% import by all the non-Top Ten.

Trends in the current year

The current year seems to be doing better than the last year even though many are complaining about the slowdown due to the old policy being allowed excessive extensions and some still without the price approvals. Grover had announced the plans to start imports but that doesn’t seem to be in the horizon. Fratelli has announced its extended push into imports –the scales have been much higher with Finewinesnmore giving up the import business and their taking over the fast selling labels.

Sula has been very aggressive and has been gearing up to take on Jacob’s Creek with Accolade Wines promoting Hardys on a never-before-scale, engaging cricketers like Nick Pringle and Glen McGrath to gain favor with the cricket hungry fans. With two new labels on the horizon, Mud House from New Zealand and Kumala from South Africa, besides reinforcement of Hardys labels, the stage is being set by Sula and others to provide the consumers with pocket friendly wines despite the government playing spoil sport.

With no letting up in the demand for wines-imported and Indian, this year and next year and the next, would depend on how pragmatic, systematic or arbitrary the governments at the center and in States are. So far, it has been like roulette with the government being the suspicious dealer-only interested in the profits for the House. If all goes well, a 15% increase is on the cards-lower than the 20% + projected by most studies, the governmental intervention notwithstanding.

That one factor alone still controls the market and imported wine lovers’ options.

For an earlier related Article, visit Roller Coaster Ride with same Top Ten Importers

Subhash Arora

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Tags: Pernod Ricard , Brindco, Jacobs Creek, FSSAI, Mumm’s Champagne, Brancott Estate, Aspri, Hema, Farhad Bhaba, Berkmann India, Moet Hennessey, Fratelli, Nick Pringle, Glen McGrath, Mud House, Kumala


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