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AABL’s Pursuit of Quality and Affordability: Expanding Access to Premium Spirits and Beers

Tushar Bhandari, Whole Time Director, Associated Alcohols & Breweries Limited, in his conversation with Brewer World, discusses AABL, its primary product lineup, and elaborates on his strategies for growth. He also provides insights into upcoming trends in the spirits and beer sector.

Mr. Tushar Bhandari is a seasoned business leader and the driving force behind Associated Alcohols & Breweries Ltd. With over 15 years of rich experience in the liquor industry, Mr. Bhandari has firmly established himself as a prominent figure in the field. As the Whole Time Director of Associated Alcohols & Breweries Ltd., Mr. Bhandari assumes the role of an astute strategist and visionary. His insightful market foresight enables him to identify untapped business opportunities and guide the company toward sustained growth. With an innate ability to anticipate market shifts and an impressive track record of accomplishments, Mr. Tushar Bhandari embodies innovation, leadership, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

Tell us about your company – Associated Alcohols & Breweries Limited? 

Associated Alcohols & Breweries Limited, founded in 1989 by the late Shri Bhagwati Prasad Kedia, stands as a distinguished entity within the Associated Kedia Group. The company comes with a rich background in the alcohol industry. Its entry into the alcoholic beverage (alco-bev) space is rooted in a family’s long-standing involvement in the industry, spanning generations. Its primary mission is to establish an unrivalled legacy in the realm of liquor manufacturing, distillation, and bottling in India. With a core commitment to excellence, the company has ventured into the alcohol and beverage industry, placing a strong emphasis on quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction. The company has a history of white-labelling for established brands like Black Dog, Black & White, which demonstrates its experience and expertise in the field. Operating across five Indian states, with a significant presence in Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, it has firmly established itself as one of the country’s largest distillers. The company is involved in the production of a diverse range of alcoholic products, from extra-neutral alcohol (ENA) to Indian made Indian liquor (IMIL) and Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL). Its manufacturing plant near Indore boasts cutting-edge technology, enabling superior manufacturing capabilities. Associated Alcohols & Breweries Limited’s journey into the alco-bev space is rooted in its founder’s vision and unwavering commitment to crafting exceptional alcoholic products, leading to its prominent position in the industry today.

Can you describe your core product offerings, including any signature or specialty products?

Associated Alcohols & Breweries Limited boasts a diverse array of core product offerings within the alcohol industry. Their product portfolio includes Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA), serving as a foundation for various alcoholic beverages due to its purity. Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) forms another significant category, encompassing traditional spirits like whiskey, rum, and brandy, which cater to the indigenous market. Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) adds a touch of global sophistication, offering premium spirits like Scotch whisky and imported vodka. The company also produces Rectified Spirit, known for its purity and utility in the creation of liqueurs and flavoured spirits. Notably, Associated Alcohols & Breweries Limited distinguishes itself through its specialty and proprietary brands, such as Central Province Whisky, Titanium Triple Distilled Vodka (in Plain and Orange variants), James McGill Whisky, Jamaican Magic Matured Rum, Bombay Special Series and Mood Maker Whiskey. These signature brands showcase the company’s commitment to quality and craftsmanship, catering to a diverse range of consumer preferences and establishing a prominent presence in the alcohol market.

As part of the Associated Kedia Group, Mount Everest Breweries Ltd has its own proprietary beer brands. These include Lemount Beer, which is the highest-selling strong beer in Madhya Pradesh, Mount’s 6000, and Dabang Beer. Other than these, MEBL also ventured into the premium beer category in 2019 with STOK. STOK is the flagship product of MEBL with 5 lakh cases sold to date. The brand offers 3 flavour variants to serve the needs of consumers with different tastes.

What sets your spirits or beers apart from others in the market?

At AABL, our spirits and beers stand out in the market for several compelling reasons. We differentiate ourselves through a fusion of modern distilling and blending techniques, as well as the infusion of innovative flavours into our beverages. This approach results in a unique and distinctive taste profile that sets us apart from the mainstream competition. Moreover, our unwavering commitment to quality is a defining factor that distinguishes us. We strive to offer premium quality spirits and beers while ensuring affordability, making our products accessible to a broader audience. This combination of exceptional taste and affordability positions us as a standout choice in the market, providing consumers with an unparalleled value proposition and a delightful drinking experience.

MEBL’s flagship STOK differentiates itself from other brands with its unique packaging, design and appeal. The brand offers 3 different variants, each of which represents a different personality with its taste and texture.

Could you explain your production process and the quality control measures you have in place?

Our production process at AABL is characterised by a commitment to excellence and quality control. It commences with the meticulous selection of high-quality ingredients, a crucial step in achieving the desired taste profile of our spirits and beers. The distilling and blending processes are executed with precision, utilising time-tested methods that have been refined over the years. These processes are a blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern techniques, ensuring that our beverages are crafted to perfection. Quality control is at the heart of our production philosophy. Each batch of our products undergoes stringent testing to meet our exacting standards. We employ a combination of modern technology and the expertise of our skilled team to maintain the consistency and quality of our offerings. This multifaceted approach allows us to deliver beverages that not only meet but exceed our customers’ expectations, ensuring a premium and satisfying drinking experience with every sip.

What types of ingredients do you use in your products, and do you source them locally or internationally?

In crafting our products, we prioritise the selection of premium-quality ingredients that are essential to achieving the desired taste and quality. While we do source some ingredients internationally to meet our stringent quality standards, we also take advantage of locally available resources when they meet our requirements. Our commitment to excellence in taste and quality is unwavering, and this extends to the sourcing of ingredients. We meticulously assess each ingredient’s suitability for our production process, ensuring that it aligns with our high standards. The combination of careful ingredient selection, meticulous distillation and blending processes, and rigorous quality control measures allows us to consistently deliver products that meet and exceed the expectations of our discerning consumers.

How do you ensure the consistency of flavour and quality across batches of your products?

In crafting our products, we start with the meticulous selection of ingredients, a critical step in achieving the desired taste and quality. Our commitment to sourcing the finest ingredients is unwavering, and we take great care in choosing only the best. The ingredients we use are carefully sourced both locally and internationally, depending on the specific requirements of each product. We believe in leveraging the strengths of both local and global sources to create a diverse and high-quality ingredient base. Our production process is overseen by experienced distillers and blenders who ensure that each batch adheres to our precise recipe guidelines. To maintain consistency and quality, we employ advanced monitoring systems that track various parameters throughout the entire production process. These rigorous quality control measures help us guarantee that every bottle of our product offers the same delightful and exceptional experience, meeting our high standards and exceeding our customers’ expectations. 

What sustainability practices or initiatives do you have in place within your production process?

At AABL, sustainability is a core value that guides our production processes. We have implemented several initiatives to minimise our environmental footprint and promote responsible practices:

Water Recycling: We have a robust water recycling system in place, which allows us to efficiently reuse water throughout our production process. This not only reduces water wastage but also conserves this precious resource.

Captive Power Plant: Our operations are powered by a captive power plant that ensures optimal energy efficiency. This approach helps us minimise our energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a more sustainable operation.

By-Product Recycling: We actively collaborate with local farmers for the recycling of by-products generated during our production process. This not only reduces waste but also supports local agriculture, creating a circular and sustainable system.

Our overarching commitment is to produce the best beverages while leaving a minimal environmental footprint. These sustainability initiatives reflect our dedication to responsible and eco-friendly production practices.

Are there any upcoming releases or collaborations that consumers should be excited about?

We certainly have some exciting projects in the pipeline that will be divulged soon.

How do you approach packaging and labelling to reflect the identity of your brand?

Our approach to packaging and labelling is deeply rooted in our brand’s identity and values. We view packaging as an opportunity to convey the rich story and ethos that define our brand. Each aspect of our packaging, from the design to the labelling, is carefully curated to offer consumers a glimpse into the passion, tradition, and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle of our product.  It reflects the authenticity and unique character of our brand, making it instantly recognizable on the shelf. We aim to create a packaging experience that not only protects our product but also enhances the overall brand perception. For example, STOK’s packaging showcases the brand’s mascot panda. The panda reflects the brand’s ideology and persona that people should be able to take some time out for themselves and chill in life the way a panda does, undisturbed and unperturbed from life.

What is your distribution strategy, and where can consumers find your products?

Our distribution strategy at AABL is built on collaboration with top-tier distributors across various states. We prioritise establishing a wide distribution network to ensure that consumers have easy access to our products. Our focus is on encouraging consumers to experience our offerings, and we believe that once they do, they will be eager to make the switch from their usual choices. The strategic placement of our products is a key component of our distribution strategy. We ensure that our products are available in locations where discerning consumers typically shop. This approach helps us reach our target audience and showcase the quality and uniqueness of our beverages. Consumers can find our products at leading retailers, liquor stores, bars, and restaurants across the regions where we operate. We are dedicated to expanding our presence and making our products more accessible to consumers who appreciate exceptional quality and taste.

Are there any plans for expanding your product line or entering new markets? 

AABL has ambitious plans for expansion on multiple fronts. First, the company is set to introduce a new product line, including Nicobar gin, Blended whiskey, and Ready to Drink (RTD) options. These offerings aim to cater to a wider range of consumer preferences, from those seeking distinct spirits to those looking for convenient RTD beverages. Second, in terms of geographical expansion, while AABL already has a presence in several regions in India, the company is eyeing further growth in states like Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal, and Karnataka. Additionally, AABL has expressed interest in international markets, with potential targets including the United States and the Middle East. These expansion plans underline AABL’s commitment to growth, innovation, and catering to the diverse tastes of consumers across various regions and markets.

What do you see as the future trends in the spirits/beer industry, and how are you preparing to adapt to them?

In the Indian spirits/beer industry, there is a notable shift towards premiumization, mirroring trends seen in international markets. This shift is driven by evolving consumer preferences as consumers are becoming more discerning and willing to explore higher-quality and more premium products, including beers. Alongside premiumization, community building and experiential activities and events are gaining traction. Brands are focusing on creating immersive and engaging experiences for consumers, whether through events, tasting sessions, or interactive marketing campaigns. These strategies not only promote brand loyalty but also enhance the overall beer-drinking experience. To stay ahead of the rapid changes and constant evolution in beer making in India, we employ a strategy that focuses on utilising relevant and innovative mediums. Continuously adapting to the shifting landscape, ensures that our marketing efforts remain effective and resonate with the current trends. 

Are there any unique stories or anecdotes related to your brand or products that you’d like to share?

Certainly, our journey to create a clear brandy, a pioneering innovation in the world of spirits, was inspired by a deep understanding of consumer preferences, particularly in the state of Kerala. In Kerala, we noticed a unique consumption pattern, where a significant number of women enjoyed alcoholic beverages but often sought more inconspicuous and discreet means of doing so. Understanding this distinctive need, we embarked on a mission to develop a clear brandy that not only retained the rich taste characteristics of regular brandy but also provided consumers with a refined and subtle drinking experience. This innovation was a testament to our commitment to meeting the diverse and evolving needs of our audience. By introducing this clear brandy, we not only addressed a specific consumer segment but also demonstrated our dedication to pushing the boundaries of conventional spirit production. It quickly gained popularity among those seeking a more discreet and socially acceptable way to enjoy brandy, marking a significant milestone in the industry and underlining our brand’s innovative spirit.

Can you provide insights into the best ways for consumers to appreciate and enjoy your products?

To fully appreciate and enjoy our products, we recommend embracing the versatility of our spirits. AABL’s spirits are meticulously crafted to cater to the varying preferences of every individual. One can start by trying them neat, which allows you to savour the intricate notes and unique flavours that define our products. For those who prefer a milder taste, adding a splash of water can further open up the aromatic qualities and enhance the overall drinking experience. Additionally, our spirits can be used in crafting delightful cocktails, providing an opportunity for creativity in mixology. Ultimately, the best way to enjoy our products is to explore and experiment, as there are no hard and fast rules—just a world of flavours waiting to be discovered and appreciated.