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HomeNewsRuchi Gupta sipping on success with Barneys Hard Seltzer's quest for growth...

Ruchi Gupta sipping on success with Barneys Hard Seltzer’s quest for growth and expansion

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Hard seltzer, often dubbed as bubbly bliss or chaser alcohol, is captivating attention like never before. Latest to Indian taste buds and relegated as a niche category this effervescent drink is swiftly making way in the nation’s drinking scene. Driven by a burgeoning culture of mindful imbibing and the enthusiastic embrace of millennials, it is now gaining popularity. And leading the charge in this burgeoning trend is none other than Barneys Hard Seltzer.

In a landscape dominated by established liquor brands, Ruchi Gupta and her Co-Founder Gaurav Sharma embarked on a journey to introduce something new to the Indian alcohol industry. Amid the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, their Goa based venture, Barbrew Beverages, was born out of a desire to offer a refreshing alternative—Barneys Hard Seltzer in a market saturated with traditional options.

Ruchi Gupta & Gaurav Sharma, Co-Founders, Barneys

Talking to SnackFax, Ruchi Gupta shared insights into the inception and evolution of Barneys Hard Seltzer.

“When we started this particular category called hard seltzers, it was very new in the country. You have too many products in the beer, whiskey, vodka, and wine categories, but if you see just the ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages category, you actually do not have many options,” Ruchi explained. Recognizing the growing trend of health-conscious consumers seeking low-sugar, low-calorie alternatives, Ruchi and Gaurav saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the market.

Barneys Hard Seltzer quickly gained traction, resonating with a generation eager to experiment with new flavors and healthier options. Ruchi emphasized the significance of their product’s appeal, stating, “Barneys comes from a very popular sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. So that character resonates with the generation that we have today.”

Despite being a relatively new entrant, Barneys Hard Seltzer has made significant strides in the market. In its inaugural year, brand experienced unprecedented success, becoming India’s top-selling brand with an impressive top line of nearly five crore rupees. However, the subsequent year presented its share of obstacles, particularly with the fluctuating policies in Delhi, shedding light on the industry’s volatility.

“Despite these hurdles, our cumulative sales have soared to an impressive eight crore rupees, underscoring the resonance of our product with customers. Notably, in the states where we operate, we’ve observed a remarkable repeat rate of nearly 50%, indicating a strong affinity for our offering. Witnessing customers transition from purchasing a mere two cans to 40-50 cans speaks volumes about the trust and satisfaction they have in our product,” she informed.

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When discussing the market landscape, it’s essential to compare hard seltzers within the categories and contextualize the positioning of brands like Breezer. While Breezer has carved a niche for itself over the years, its market share remains relatively modest within the broader alcohol industry. This is partly attributed to its targeted positioning and distribution challenges. Barneys, on the other hand, occupies a unique space within the market, competing not only with breezers but also with beers, aerated drinks, and high-sugar cocktails.

Ruchi believes, Barneys emergence signifies the birth of a new category—one that offers a healthier alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages. “Hard seltzer is a category in itself,” she said.

The market potential for hard seltzers is immense, with global projections estimating a staggering 40 billion USD market size by 2027. In India alone, the market is expected to reach 2 billion USD, driven by a youthful population and growing health consciousness. This presents a significant opportunity for Barneys to cater to the evolving preferences of consumers, particularly those seeking lower-calorie options in line with their fitness goals.

“USD 2 billion is not a small number. So, if I’m creating something, it is for the future,” she added.

According to her, the hard seltzer segment is still taking shape. And navigating the competitive landscape requires a nuanced understanding of consumer preferences and market dynamics. While established formats of consumption, such as scotch and single malts, pose a challenge, they also offer opportunities for innovation and differentiation.

“It’s not about competing against industry behemoths; it’s about creating something new and extraordinary. Consider the trajectory of Bira in the beer category. Despite established brands like Haywards 5000 and Kingfisher, Bira introduced a sweeter, distinct taste that resonated with consumers. So, I feel hard seltzer is in the same boat,” she said.

When it comes to market performance, Chandigarh has emerged as a standout market for them, closely followed by Telangana.

“Telangana stands out as one of the strongest markets for ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages in India, with approximately 1 lakh cases of breezers sold every month. In Telangana, we proudly hold the position of the second-highest selling product in the RTD category,” she said.

“While Goa, as a market for them, presents its unique set of challenges. While conducive for trial and testing, it lacks the permanence needed for sustained market presence due to the transient nature of tourist preferences,” she added.

Discussing the challenges of marketing an alcohol brand, Ruchi emphasized the importance of innovative strategies tailored to circumvent restrictions on traditional advertising. “There are both positives and negatives. Thank God that we cannot advertise alcohol because the budgets that big companies have, we cannot match those budgets firstly,” she explained. Instead, Barney’s focuses on experiential marketing and tastings to engage consumers effectively.

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Ruchi highlighted the brand’s strategic approach to market penetration, leveraging consumer trials and tasting sessions to create buzz. “The best part to market your particular category, which the consumer doesn’t know, is by tasting sessions and trials. And this is what we’ve done in Chandigarh, and we were able to see the results,” Ruchi stated.

Another challenge in this segment is obtaining a license for alcohol-based products, added Ruchi. However, Barneys has devised effective strategies to navigate this obstacle and drive success.

“I prefer not to divulge the exact tactics; I can share that our approach involves bringing consumers to us rather than actively seeking them out. This unique method has allowed us to generate significant buzz and interest in our products. For instance, if you were to visit any of Chandigarh’s markets, you would witness firsthand the tactics we employ. It’s a strategy that I’m eager to replicate across the country. Alongside distribution, I firmly believe that the strength of our sales team plays a pivotal role in our success,” she revealed.

With 6% alcohol content, Barneys Hard Seltzer rivals the strength of traditional beers. While appealing to both male and female consumers, it’s also debunking a common misconception that flavored drinks are exclusively favored by women. With this, Barneys have a big roadmap down the line, including securing the investments, revealed Ruchi.

“In terms of our approach to growth, we prioritize value over sheer numbers. We understand that falling into the trap of chasing numbers can be counterproductive in the long run. Instead, our focus lies on maximizing the potential of the resources we have. With the right funding, we believe we can achieve significant growth, possibly tripling or quadrupling our current capacity,” she said.

Ruchi’s primary objectives revolve around securing better funding opportunities and further penetrating existing markets. “We’ve already obtained licenses for these markets. Additionally, we aim to diversify our portfolio by introducing one or two new beverages that cater to a broader age demographic. While our current target audience ranges from 21 to 35 years, these new products will extend our reach to consumers over 40 years, marking a significant breakthrough for us,” she said.

Looking ahead, for the next six months, Barneys has expansion plans to enter Haryana and explore two more markets, details of which will be revealed soon. Meanwhile, they are also venturing into the international market. “Our foray into Africa has shown promising results, with positive responses from consumers during product trials. With plans to send our first shipment to Africa soon, we remain committed to exploring new avenues for growth and expansion,” she concluded.

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