The pandemic may have brought the nation to a standstill, but if there’s one thing we can take away from every lockdown; it’s that the demand for alcohol never goes down. Rather on the contrary, people lining up outside liquor stores for hours on end was quite a common sight in the initial phases of the lockdown. Sensing an opportunity for innovation in this very market, Barbrew, a beverages start-up backed by ah! Ventures, is introducing a fresh take on liquor in India: Hard Seltzers.
Barbrew was conceptualised over the course of the pandemic by Ruchi Gupta and Gaurav Sharma. Founded in October 2020, Ruchi and Gaurav thought of Barbrew during one of their numerous conversations about alcohol. To their surprise, they found that there was no healthy alcoholic beverage, and considering the impact of the pandemic; people are becoming increasingly health conscious now more than ever. Post-pandemic health is now a major concern and if offered a healthier drink, consumers will gladly take it.
Prior to the formation of Barbrew, neither Ruchi nor Gaurav were remotely affiliated with the liquor industry. Ruchi completed her engineering followed by an MBA after which she spent a period of time working with Cadbury.
Gaurav did have experience of setting up companies and running a business. His firm was into designing modular kitchens and therefore he was also well-connected with several lounges and clubs in Delhi. Ruchi, however, had the desire to start a business of her own; and after some discussion with Gaurav they decided to capitalize on the vast untapped potential in the liquor industry with Barbrew.
Being a new introduction to the Indian market, Barbrew has to find a way to make their drinks appealing to Indians. Although, in Ruchi’s experience, wine coolers and seltzers are popular in other countries; Indians remain comparatively unfamiliar with these beverages. Barbrew, on paper, looks like it caters to just health-conscious consumers as well as fitness enthusiasts. However, the target audience is not limited to the same. They market their Barneys Seltzer as “an easy drink for all above the age of 21 years thereby uniting the generations.”
Barney’s Hard Seltzer, a new age health-conscious alcoholic beverage, is currently Barbrews prime offering. Barbrew presents it as India’s first refreshing alternative to drinks like beer, wine, breezers and cocktails. The drink itself contains zero added sugar and offers a low calorie, no carb alcoholic product. This alone is a gamechanger, proving that it is possible to have a healthy alcoholic beverage without compromising on quality or taste. And to top it all, they have a variety of exciting flavors such as apple cider, strawberry, peach, lemongrass.
By May 2020, Ruchi and Gaurav started work on blending new flavours for their hard seltzers, collaborating with a top French flavourhouse who provided them with base flavours. They spent the next few months mixing flavours, experimenting to find the perfect blends that would captivate their customers. Initially recreating pre-existing blends, Barbrew’s first milestone arrived when they registered their first patent-pending product. Incorporating refreshing elements like jasmine and lemongrass, their goal is to make premium blends that give you a 7-star experience at an affordable price.
The liquor market in India is extremely saturated with countless brands available selling their offerings in beers, wines, etc. However, one such brand who remains relatively unopposed in the market, with no direct competitors, is the Bacardi Breezer. Ruchi explains that Barbrew chose to introduce Barney’s Hard Seltzer to compete with Bacardi’s Breezer and disrupt Bacardi’s monopoly over that segment of the market. Surprisingly, Ruchi also hopes that more brands introduce their take on hard seltzers as that would make it easier for the drink to gain traction amongst consumers.
“Hard Seltzers are a healthy alternative to all other liquors currently available in India.”
Barbrew is also looking to break societal stereotypes, which dictate that “colourful” drinks are feminine. Ruchi stresses that Barney’s Hard Seltzers are meant for everyone irrespective of any predefined social norms. Their seltzers are meant for people of all generations, with no gender barrier or age barrier (apart from being of legal age, of course). She also adds that Barbrew tried to encompass the aura of the character Barney Stinson from the TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’. Hence, the name ‘Barney’s Hard Seltzer’ and the unmistakable yellow umbrella in their logo as a tribute to the show.
Ruchi believes Barbrews unique flavours will be their strongest selling point for Barney’s Hard Seltzers. Not many brands will have blends remotely similar to Barbew’s unique concoction of fruits, flowers and herbs indicative of their intensive R&D process. Barbrew wants to have a characteristic taste while capitalizing on their first movers advantage in this market. Another selling point is that they’re a born and bred Indian company. This gives them the advantage of understanding the market, considering they’re a part of the audience they’re targeting.
With the R&D phase of their product development cycle complete, Barbrew is now focused on getting their beverages out on product shelves for consumers. Packaging is one dilemma they’re currently faced with, debating whether bottled beverages are the ideal route or if the trend towards canned beverages is likely to edge over classic bottles. Regardless of packaging though, Barbrew is looking to launch distribution in Delhi NCR and Mumbai by September 2021, and then expand nationwide. The governments’ decision to permit home delivery of liquor has further made it easier for Barbrew to distribute their products, as well for consumers to purchase the same.
Even with their domestic launch looming over the horizon, Ruchi’s eyes are set on making Barbrew a global brand. The backing received from ah! Ventures, she remarks, has also been a major boost to their confidence and has prepared them for exciting yet difficult journey ahead. The groundwork has been laid for Barbrew, an innovative product has been developed in the form of Barney’s Hard Seltzer. The next step is putting all their plans into action and given the brains behind this project, success is sure to arrive sooner rather than later!