MUMBAI: Is the striding man epitomizing Johnnie Walker, the world’s largest selling scotch whiskey, slowing down in India? For the first time, the smaller scotch rival Chivas Regal took lead over Johnnie Walker in a key segment last calendar.
Chivas Regal 12-Year-Old sold 1.37 lakh cases as against 1.29 lakh of Johnnie Walker Black in the bottled-at-source, premium blended scotch segment. Though the Johnnie Walker family of brands together outsell the competing Chivas Regal portfolio, the loss of leadership in the country’s most visible segment of scotch consumption is a setback for Diageo.
Johnnie Walker Black has lagged behind the peer from the stables of Pernod Ricard in the five-year and 10-year compounded growth rates, while volume sales last year tumbled 21.8%, according to the latest report from International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR).
The data includes domestic retail and duty-free sales. More than 80% of India’s duty-free sales happen at airport arrivals, making it a significant route to market for domestic con sumption. Pernod Ricard’s sustained promotional work at duty-free and strong push at upmarket on-trade premises have scripted a slow and steady climb of Chivas Regal, said top industry observers who didn’t wish to be named.
Interestingly, data from Canadean, which takes into account domestic sales only, shows Johnnie walker much ahead of Chivas Regal.
Johnnie Walker brands together sold slightly over 2.6 lakh cases during 2015, dropping from about 3.2 lakh cases in the preceding year.
Johnnie Walker Red Label, the lowest priced offering from the trademark, declined 19.6% to 1.12 lakh cases last calendar, IWSR said. The not-so-boisterous swig comes even as Diageo, which acquired United Spirits (USL) in a bid to conquer the world’s largest whiskey market, has seen some of the main brands report declining sales in India.
Chivas Regal 12-Year-Old saw depletion rise 12.3% last calendar, up from 1.22 lakh cases in 2014. The brand -which Pernod Ricard acquired from Seagram’s in one of the biggest industry consolidation deals — outpaced Johnnie Walker with 9.9% and 14.7% compounded growth over a five year-end 10year period, respectively.
Johnnie Walker reported 2.7% and 2.3% growth over a similar time frame, IWSR added. Johnnie Walker Black Label has malts that are aged at least 12 years and above, though Diageo has decided to drop formal age claims on the scotch labels.
“This is a big achievement for us, as the Chivas brand, riding on a better connect with the young affluent consumer, has grown from holding a single digit share in 2001 to 49.5% segment share in the premium blended scotch in 2015,” Sumeet Lamba, executive director, Pernod Ricard India, said. He said India has become the third-fastest growing market for blended scotch industry in the past five years and contributed close to one-third of the global growth in his period.
In response to a query, a USL spokesperson said, “The reported IWSR numbers are wrong and we are taking it up with them strongly (the said data includes both domestic and duty-free numbers). Johnnie Walker Black Label sold over 1.21lakh cases in domestic market alone with 28% volume growth in 2015. We are also disappointed that IWSR data for previous years has been changed unilaterally without engaging or informing USL.”