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Finding Opportunity In Disruption: Effingut’s Manu Gulati On Key Future Industry Trends and Driving Factors

Prediction is always a risky business. After all, few analysts and experts could have predicted what challenges the end of the year 2019 would bring to all businesses – big and small. Revenue graphs fell flat as companies rolled down their shutters to comply with lockdown norms, causing a ripple effect to the world gross domestic product (GDP) decline. And like all other industries, the craft beer segment hasn’t been spared either.

Manu Gulati, Founder of Effingut Breweries and Effingut 2 Go

Despite disruptions and changes, savvy businesses adjust, adapt and evolve. Manu Gulati, founder of Maharashtra-based Effingut Breweries has demonstrated that with the right strategies and outlook, it is possible to find find a footing, even in these uncertain times.

In October, the brand announced the launch of India’s first retail craft beer chain named ‘Effingut 2 Go’ with not one, but three outlets. The goal of this venture? To bring the true Effingut experience of craft beer and gourmet food to a beer lover’s home in light of the current pandemic. Effingut’s exceptional beers also enjoyed the spotlight at this year’s Asia Beer Championship awards. The brand is currently the only Indian microbrewery to bag three bronzes for being one of the top three beers in Asia in the Wheat Beer, Saison and Experimental Beer Categories.

For this week’s piece on Craft Beer Trends 2021, Manu Gulati steps forward to talk about some key trends he foresees in the world of Indian craft beer while highlighting the importance of education and modernising taxation as driving factors for the growth of this industry.

1. What upcoming key global craft beer trends do you foresee for the year of 2021? How do these compare to the trends specific to the Indian market? 

The COVID lockdown resulted in the unintentional ageing of beers on a global level. Some breweries, possibly foreseeing the times to follow, started barrel ageing their beers. There has therefore been a proliferation of barrel-aged beers in 2020. By happenstance, Effingut also launched its barrel ageing programme last December, with our first brew, the Barrel Aged Braggot, winning the Chairman’s Selection for Experimental Beers at the highly regarded Asia Beer Championship 2020. Domestically, it is heartening to see the continuously evolving Indian palate, with IPAs becoming more of a regular fixture on tap!

From left to right: Effingut’s Hefeweizen, Barrel-aged Hefty Braggot and the Sorachi Ace Saison that won bronzes at the Asia Beer Championship 2020

2. What is going to be the market size of the beer industry in 2021 and what will be the key driving factors? 

There is a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the market growth in 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic. We believe that the concept of growlers and allowing breweries to sell their craft beers directly to patrons in a retail format (in Maharashtra) will be a key new vertical for our industry and will drive up flagging sales in 2021, if any. As India’s first growler retail chain, we’re working on the concept aggressively.

3. What measures would you suggest to increase per capita consumption of beer in India? 

At the ground level, consumption is always linked with education. We as an industry need to continue evangelising the good word of craft to help people understand that craft beer is made how beer is meant to be made, with top quality ingredients and no shortcuts. On a legislative level,  our associations should be looking to start conversations around modernising the taxation of beer vis a vis other alcobev.

4. How relevant is e-commerce for the future of doing beer business in India? Please elaborate. 

With excise being a state subject, using e-commerce for beer on a national level seems like it will take a while. However, to assist breweries deliver growlers during COVID times, the Maharashtra government has allowed for orders to be placed online, making it far safer for all involved and increasing the ease of doing business exponentially.

5. What are your thoughts on the future of the Growler Policy in India?

All of us are waiting for normalcy to return, both in the experience we provide and in the numbers. Growlers will go a long way in allowing good craft beer to make further inroads and be even more competitive in the broader alcobev industry. It firmly places the product we all love as not only an option for when customers decide to step out with friends and family, but also as something people can reach for at home to unwind with at the end of a long day. With Effingut 2 Go, we are committing to our vision for this new chapter in our industry and we feel certain that there are exciting times ahead that will help us bring good cheer and the good word of craft to an even wider audience. While this has only been allowed in Maharashtra currently (and temporarily in Karnataka during the lockdown), our peers must petition their local legislators to push through this unique new chapter in our industry.

6. What are your key learnings of 2020? 

2020 was a lesson in adaptation and doing the right thing. We shut our pubs before the first lockdown was announced and focused on getting our staff safely to their homes during the initial few months. It was heartening to note that the demand for craft beer outweighed the quarantine which in turn enabled us to come up with a unique solution to provide our patrons with the Effingut experience from the comfort of their home in such drastic times. This was the genesis of Effingut 2 Go, India’s first growler retail chain.

7. What, in your opinion, are some of the biggest wins the Indian craft beer industry witnessed this year?

As mentioned earlier, we look at the allowance of growlers and retail sales as the biggest win for our industry. On a personal note, the 2020 edition of the Asia Beer Championship saw over 70 breweries entering 350+ beers for the region’s top honours. Effingut is proud to be the only Indian brewery to bring home the 2020 awards. Our beers have won the following:-

  • Wheat Beer Category: Bronze, Hefeweizen (This category accepted entries not just for the Hefeweizen but for all Wheat beers including the Belgian Witbier and American Wheat styles)
  • Saison Category: Bronze, Sorach Ace Saison (The Saison is one of the most well regarded and historic styles across craft beers globally. Ours was made with rare Japanese Hops that brought unique flavours and balance to the style).
  • Experimental Beer Category: Chairman’s Selection, Barrel-Aged Hefty Braggot. Our famous winter warmer, aged in oak whiskey barrels for a year. The Chairman’s Selection is awarded to exceptional examples that meet stringent quality standards in their respective category.

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