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Bira 91 expands beer portfolio, launches two new variants

LiveMint logoLiveMint 25-05-2017 Sounak Mitra

New Delhi: Bira 91, the country’s first handcrafted beer, on Thursday launched two new variants — Bira 91 Light and Bira 91 Strong, more than two years after it launched the beer in India. So far, it has been selling Bira 91 White (a low-bitterness wheat beer) and Bira 91 Blonde (an extra hoppy craft lager).

Ankur Jain, the founder of B9 Beverages, the company that owns Bira 91, who grappled with shortage of his beer brand in 2016, managed to take corrective action, raised funds, got bottlers in India and started selling his brand in New York.

Bira 91 Light is priced at Rs100 for 330 ml bottle and will be made available in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Bangalore this quarter and other cities later in the year, the company said. It will, however, make Bira 91 Strong available across 15 markets within the next two-three months. Bira 91 Strong will come in 500 ml cans and 650 ml bottles, it added.

“Bira 91 Light is the lowest calorie option for any alcoholic beverage in the bar. It is lower than a glass of champagne, much lower than Breezers, wine or cocktails. Its even lower than a glass of milk or orange juice,” Jain, who wants to market the beer as a ‘lunchtime beer’ or a quick refreshment drink, said in a statement.

According to the company, a 330ml bottle of Bira 91 Light that has 4% alcohol in it will give the drinker just about 90 calories, just a little more than half of what a regular standard lager beer would give.

“Our estimates are that India has about 200 million consumers of alcohol and only about 100 million consumers of beer. Bira 91 Light will hopefully give non-beer drinkers another reason to consider beers when they are looking for refreshments,” added Jain.

Bira 91 Strong, on the other hand, will be marketed as a ‘high intensity wheat beer’ that will have 7% alcohol. According to industry estimates, about 85% of beer sold in India is strong and comes with high alcohol (more than 5%).

“This is a big beer. High on flavour, taste and alcohol content. We want the mainstream consumer to consider and discover taste when they make a choice at the retail shelf. With the introduction of Bira 91 Strong, the difference to the consumers will be obvious and we expect that consumers will quickly up-trade to Bira 91 Strong from whatever they have been drinking thus far,” Jain said.

Bira 91 Strong will be priced 20% higher than the largest-selling strong beers in the market, the company said.

The Sequoia Capital-backed beer maker raised about $7.5 million earlier this year from a group of investors led by Sequoia, according to the company’s filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). Its other investors include General Atlantic managing director Shantanu Rastogi and its senior vice president Alok Misra, and Naik Family Trust 2013.

In an earlier round, Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, co-founders of e-commerce firm Snapdeal, Ashish Dhawan, co-founder of private equity firm Chryscapital, Mayank Singhal of Singapore state investment arm Temasek Holdings, and Deepinder Goyal, founder of restaurant discovery platform Zomato, had invested in B9 Beverages.

B9 Beverages has so far raised about $16 million.

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