Beverage manufacturers exploring ready-to-drink category in India amid COVID-19, says GlobalData

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the beverage industry has witnessed a significant shift in the purchasing preferences of consumers in India, with steady rise and strong inclination towards ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages. This shift has encouraged the beverage manufacturers to re-evaluate their innovation strategies and explore options to diversify their portfolios, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

According to GlobalData COVID-19 survey week-10 (3 June 2020), almost 40% Indian consumers bought more quantity of juices and squashes than before while 37% bought more dairy beverages. The survey also reveals that 60% of consumers prefer packaged drinks compared to freshly prepared alternatives. This implies that even though packaged RTD beverage concept is not new, the restrictions on movement due to nationwide lockdown has encouraged the consumers to stockpile RTD beverages.

Shagun Sachdeva, Consumer insights analyst at GlobalData, says: “India has increasingly been looked upon as a promising market for the RTD beverage category over the past few years as the consumption continues to rise across the country. Panic buying and stockpiling during COVID-19 has put RTD beverages in demand more than ever and forced beverage brands to consider alternative ways to align with the consumers’ priorities.”

Leading Indian beverages manufacturers such as Nestlé, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are forecast to be the worst hit due to the pandemic. All these players registered significant volume drops due to the shutdowns of malls, restaurants and cinemas amid the lockdown. In April 2020, Coca-Cola reported a 5% decline in unit case volume in bottling operations in India, due to the lockdown enforced from 23 March 2020. Therefore, companies have been under pressure to undertake measures for streamlining production and mitigate risk of losing consumers to competitors.

In an attempt to regain market share, Coca-Cola recently launched RTD spiced Buttermilk under its VIO brand to woo the Indian customers with ‘desi’ flavors.

In the juice category, Hamdard Laboratories launched a unique fusion of RoohAfza with real fruit juices in a convenient RTD, Tetrapak format for the Indian market.

Sachdeva adds: “With multiple options of beverages, consumers have become more experimental and less loyal to brands, thereby compelling the manufacturers to continuously innovate to retain their consumers along with keeping affordability factor in mind.”

The recent RTD beverage launches will not only addresses consumers’ health concerns but also seems to capture the spirit of the times with the emotional value. For instance, beverage manufacturers are developing more personalized products targeting the distinct needs of specific consumer cohorts. However, brands need to strategize on how to retain their appeal post-COVID-19.

Sachdeva concludes: “While it is difficult to anticipate the full extent of the changes COVID-19 will trigger, beverage companies are trying their best to keep the category alive and vibrant while coping with the pandemic challenges.”

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